The geometry of domain combination in proteins

Matthew Bashton, Cyrus Chothia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


Most proteins in genomes are the result of the recombination of two or more domains. It has been found that if proteins are formed by a combination of domains from superfamilies A and B, then the domains may occur in the sequential order AB or BA but only in about 2% of cases do they occur in both sequential orders. The classical Rossmann domains of known structure are combined with catalytic domains from seven different superfamilies. In addition, there are eight cases where structures with both AB and BA domain combinations are known. For these two sets of structures, we analysed: (i) the relative orientation of the domains; (ii) the type of domain connection; (iii) the structure of the interdomain links; and (iv) domain function. The results of this analysis indicate that in most cases domain order is conserved because recombination of the domains has only occurred once during the course of evolution. Functional reasons become important when the domain connections are short. In seven out of the eight known cases where domains are combined in the AB and BA sequential orders they have different geometrical relationships that give them different functional properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927-939
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2002
Externally publishedYes


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