Phosphorylation at specific residues can activate a protein, lead to its localization to particular compartments, be a trigger for protein degradation and fulfill many other biological functions. Protein phosphorylation is increasingly being studied at a large scale and in a quantitative manner that includes a temporal dimension. By contrast, structural properties of identified phosphorylation sites have so far been investigated in a static, non-quantitative way. Here we combine for the first time dynamic properties of the phosphoproteome with protein structural features. At six time points of the cell division cycle we investigate how the variation of the amount of phosphorylation correlates with the protein structure in the vicinity of the modified site. We find two distinct phosphorylation site groups: intrinsically disordered regions tend to contain sites with dynamically varying levels, whereas regions with predominantly regular secondary structures retain more constant phosphorylation levels. The two groups show preferences for different amino acids in their kinase recognition motifs - proline and other disorder-associated residues are enriched in the former group and charged residues in the latter. Furthermore, these preferences scale with the degree of disorderedness, from regular to irregular and to disordered structures. Our results suggest that the structural organization of the region in which a phosphorylation site resides may serve as an additional control mechanism. They also imply that phosphorylation sites are associated with different time scales that serve different functional needs.
P L O S Computational Biology (online), 2013, Vol 9, Issue 1