Abstract Intrinsically disordered proteins are proteins with intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) that do not adopt a globular structure in their free state. IDRs have unique regions having protein-binding segments of which play pivotal roles in many biological processes. The binding sites in IDRs are heterogeneous in terms of their sequence conservation: some are conserved and others are not. We have been running a database of intrinsically disordered proteins, IDEAL, and collecting such binding segments, which are called protean segments (ProSs), within it. In this study, we compared the sequence conservation of ProSs, structural domains (SDs), and IDRs other than ProSs (non-ProSs) and found that i) functionally constrained residues in ProSs tend to be conserved, ii) the distribution of conservation scores of ProSs is similar to those of SDs but not non-ProSs, and iii) ProSs found in human proteins are mostly conserved only in vertebrates. These results indicate that the conservation patterns in ProSs principally follow the general rules found in SDs. However, we need to consider evolutionary distance when comparing IDR sequences because ProSs can readily emerge and disappear over the course of protein evolution. Moreover, many ProSs may remain to be identified, which may account for the heterogeneity of the sequence conservation of IDRs. Highlights Sequence conservation in protein-binding segments in IDRs is analyzed. Functionally constraint residues in protein-binding segments in IDRs are conserved. Evolutionary distance should be considered in the comparison of IDRs. Cryptic binding regions may influence sequence conservation of IDRs.
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