Predictive modeling of moonlighting DNA-binding proteins

Dana Mary Varghese, Ruth Nussinov, Shandar Ahmad*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Moonlighting proteins are multifunctional, single-polypeptide chains capable of performing multiple autonomous functions. Most moonlighting proteins have been discovered through work unrelated to their multifunctionality. We believe that prediction of moonlighting proteins from first principles, that is, using sequence, predicted structure, evolutionary profiles, and global gene expression profiles, for only one functional class of proteins in a single organism at a time will significantly advance our understanding of multifunctional proteins. In this work, we investigated human moonlighting DNA-binding proteins (mDBPs) in terms of properties that distinguish them from other (non-moonlighting) proteins with the same DNA-binding protein (DBP) function. Following a careful and comprehensive analysis of discriminatory features, a machine learning model was developed to assess the predictability of mDBPs from other DBPs (oDBPs). We observed that mDBPs can be discriminated from oDBPs with high accuracy of 74% AUC of ROC using these first principles features. A number of novel predicted mDBPs were found to have literature support for their being moonlighting and others are proposed as candidates, for which the moonlighting function is currently unknown. We believe that this work will help in deciphering and annotating novel moonlighting DBPs and scale up other functions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberlqac091
JournalNAR Genomics and Bioinformatics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2022


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