A million peptide motifs for the molecular biologist

17 July 2014
​A molecular description of functional modules in the cell is the focus of many high-throughput studies in the post-genomic era. Due to the relentless generation of information, a census of molecular entities at various levels of description is needed to understand how organisms use this basic toolkit to increase their functional versatility. A large portion of bio-molecular interactions in virtually all cellular processes is mediated by compact interaction modules, referred to as peptide motifs. Such motifs are typically less than 10 residues in length, occur within intrinsically disordered regions, and are recognized and/or post-translationally modified by structured domains of the interacting partner.

In this review, Peter Tompa (VIB/Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and colleagues suggest that there might be over a million instances of peptide motifs in the human proteome. While this staggering number suggests that peptide motifs are numerous and the most understudied functional module in the cell, it also holds great opportunities for new discoveries.

Peter Tompa (VIB/VUB): “A fascinating aspect of biology is modularity, i.e. how Nature uses successful functional elements in many different contexts. In this paper we first give unbiased estimates to suggest that there over a million instances of short functional modules, peptide motifs, in the human proteome. Since motifs are recognized and/or modified by structured domains of interacting partners, their identification is the next hurdle in describing the complexities of the functioning proteome. I like this paper because it provokes the community to accept the magnitude of this challenge, and go after the “motifome” for a better understanding of cell function and disease.”

A million peptide motifs for the molecular biologist.
Peter Tompa et al., Molecular Cell 2014


Peter Tompa
© VIB, 2014