Grammar of protein domain architectures

Academic Article

Abstract

  • From an abstract, informational perspective, protein domains appear analogous to words in natural languages in which the rules of word association are dictated by linguistic rules, or grammar. Such rules exist for protein domains as well, because only a small fraction of all possible domain combinations is viable in evolution. We employ a popular linguistic technique, n-gram analysis, to probe the “proteome grammar”—that is, the rules of association of domains that generate various domain architectures of proteins. Comparison of the complexity measures of “protein languages” in major branches of life shows that the relative entropy difference (information gain) between the observed domain architectures and random domain combinations is highly conserved in evolution and is close to being a universal constant, at ∼1.2 bits. Substantial deviations from this constant are observed in only two major groups of organisms: a subset of Archaea that appears to be cells simplified to the limit, and animals that display extreme complexity. We also identify the n-grams that represent signatures of the major branches of cellular life. The results of this analysis bolster the analogy between genomes and natural language and show that a “quasi-universal grammar” underlies the evolution of domain architectures in all divisions of cellular life. The nearly universal value of information gain by the domain architectures could reflect the minimum complexity of signal processing that is required to maintain a functioning cell.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Yu L; Tanwar DK; Penha EDS; Wolf YI; Koonin EV; Basu MK
  • Start Page

  • 3636
  • End Page

  • 3645
  • Volume

  • 116
  • Issue

  • 9