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The evolution, modifications and interactions of proteins and RNAs



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Surappa-Narayanappa, Ananth Prakash  ORCID logo


Proteins and RNAs are two of the most versatile macromolecules that carry out almost all functions within living organisms. In this thesis I have explored evolutionary and regulatory aspects of proteins and RNAs by studying their structures, modifications and interactions. In the first chapter of my thesis I investigate domain atrophy, a term I coined to describe large-scale deletions of core structural elements within protein domains. By looking into truncated domain boundaries across several domain families using Pfam, I was able to identify rare cases of domains that showed atrophy. Given that even point mutations can be deleterious, it is surprising that proteins can tolerate such large-scale deletions. Some of the structures of atrophied domains show novel protein-protein interaction interfaces that appear to compensate and stabilise their folds. Protein-protein interactions are largely influenced by the surface and charge complementarity, while RNA-RNA interactions are governed by base-pair complementarity; both interaction types are inherently different and these differences might be observed in their interaction networks. Based on this hypothesis I have explored the protein-protein, RNA-protein and the RNA-RNA interaction networks of yeast in the second chapter. By analysing the three networks I found no major differences in their network properties, which indicates an underlying uniformity in their interactomes despite their individual differences. In the third chapter I focus on RNA-protein interactions by investigating post-translational modifications (PTMs) in RNA-binding proteins (RBPs). By comparing occurrences of PTMs, I observe that RBPs significantly undergo more PTMs than non-RBPs. I also found that within RBPs, PTMs are more frequently targeted at regions that directly interact with RNA compared to regions that do not. Moreover disorderedness and amino acid composition were not observed to significantly influence the differential PTMs observed between RBPs and nonRBPs. The results point to a direct regulatory role of PTMs in RNA-protein interactions of RBPs. In the last chapter, I explore regulatory RNA-RNA interactions. Using differential expression data of mRNAs and lncRNAs from mouse models of hereditary hemochromatosis, I investigated competing regulatory interactions between mRNA, lncRNA and miRNA. A mutual interaction network was created from the predicted miRNA interaction sites on mRNAs and lncRNAs to identify regulatory RNAs in the disease. I also observed interesting relations between the sense-antisense mRNA-lncRNA pairs that indicate mutual regulation of expression levels through a yet unknown mechanism.




Bateman, Alex


Protein domains, Non-coding RNA, Regulatory networks, RNA-binding proteins, Post-translational modifications, long non-coding RNAs, ceRNA, Domain atrophy


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge