The spliceosome is a molecular machine that performs the excision of introns from eukaryotic pre-mRNAs. This macromolecular complex comprises in human cells five RNAs and over one hundred proteins. In recent years, many spliceosomal proteins have been found to exhibit intrinsic disorder, that is to lack stable native three-dimensional structure in solution. Building on the previous body of proteomic, structural and functional data, we have carried out a systematic bioinformatics analysis of intrinsic disorder in the proteome of the human spliceosome. We discovered that almost a half of the combined sequence of proteins abundant in the spliceosome is predicted to be intrinsically disordered, at least when the individual proteins are considered in isolation. The distribution of intrinsic order and disorder throughout the spliceosome is uneven, and is related to the various functions performed by the intrinsic disorder of the spliceosomal proteins in the complex. In particular, proteins involved in the secondary functions of the spliceosome, such as mRNA recognition, intron/exon definition and spliceosomal assembly and dynamics, are more disordered than proteins directly involved in assisting splicing catalysis. Conserved disordered regions in spliceosomal proteins are evolutionarily younger and less widespread than ordered domains of essential spliceosomal proteins at the core of the spliceosome, suggesting that disordered regions were added to a preexistent ordered functional core. Finally, the spliceosomal proteome contains a much higher amount of intrinsic disorder predicted to lack secondary structure than the proteome of the ribosome, another large RNP machine. This result agrees with the currently recognized different functions of proteins in these two complexes.
In eukaryotic cells, introns are spliced out of proteincoding mRNAs by a highly dynamic and extraordinarily plastic molecular machine called the spliceosome. In recent years, multiple regions of intrinsic structural disorder were found in spliceosomal proteins. Intrinsically disordered regions lack stable native three-dimensional structure in solutions, which makes them structurally flexible and/or able to switch between different conformations. Hence, intrinsically disordered regions are the ideal candidate responsible for the spliceosome's plasticity. Intrinsically disordered regions are also frequently the sites of post-translational modifications, which were also proven to be important in spliceosome dynamics. In this article, we describe the results of a structural bioinformatics analysis focused on intrinsic disorder in the spliceosomal proteome. We systematically analyzed all known human spliceosomal proteins with regards to the presence and type of intrinsic disorder. Almost a half of the combined sequence of these spliceosomal proteins is predicted to be intrinsically disordered, and the type of intrinsic disorder in a protein varies with its function and its location in the spliceosome. The parts of the spliceosome that act earlier in the process are more disordered, which corresponds to their role in establishing a network of interactions, while the parts that act later are more ordered.