Sequence Motifs in MADS Transcription Factors Responsible for Specificity and Diversification of Protein-Protein Interaction

A.D.J. van Dijk, G. Morabito, M.A. Fiers, R.C.H.J. van Ham, G.C. Angenent, R.G.H. Immink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Protein sequences encompass tertiary structures and contain information about specific molecular interactions, which in turn determine biological functions of proteins. Knowledge about how protein sequences define interaction specificity is largely missing, in particular for paralogous protein families with high sequence similarity, such as the plant MADS domain transcription factor family. In comparison to the situation in mammalian species, this important family of transcription regulators has expanded enormously in plant species and contains over 100 members in the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana. Here, we provide insight into the mechanisms that determine protein-protein interaction specificity for the Arabidopsis MADS domain transcription factor family, using an integrated computational and experimental approach. Plant MADS proteins have highly similar amino acid sequences, but their dimerization patterns vary substantially. Our computational analysis uncovered small sequence regions that explain observed differences in dimerization patterns with reasonable accuracy. Furthermore, we show the usefulness of the method for prediction of MADS domain transcription factor interaction networks in other plant species. Introduction of mutations in the predicted interaction motifs demonstrated that single amino acid mutations can have a large effect and lead to loss or gain of specific interactions. In addition, various performed bioinformatics analyses shed light on the way evolution has shaped MADS domain transcription factor interaction specificity. Identified protein-protein interaction motifs appeared to be strongly conserved among orthologs, indicating their evolutionary importance. We also provide evidence that mutations in these motifs can be a source for sub- or neo-functionalization. The analyses presented here take us a step forward in understanding protein-protein interactions and the interplay between protein sequences and network evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1001017
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • novo structure prediction
  • organ-identity proteins
  • box genes
  • flower development
  • floral organ
  • dna-binding
  • peptide interactions
  • signal-transduction
  • arabidopsis
  • dimerization


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