It is recognized now that intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs), which do not have unique 3D structures as a whole or in noticeable parts, constitute a significant fraction of any given proteome. IDPs are characterized by an astonishing structural and functional diversity that defines their ability to be universal regulators of various cellular pathways. Programmed cell death (PCD) is one of the most intricate cellular processes where the cell uses specialized cellular machinery and intracellular programs to kill itself. This cell-suicide mechanism enables metazoans to control cell numbers and to eliminate cells that threaten the animal’s survival. PCD includes several specific modules, such as apoptosis, autophagy, and programmed necrosis (necroptosis). These modules are not only tightly regulated but also intimately interconnected and are jointly controlled via a complex set of protein–protein interactions. To understand the role of the intrinsic disorder in controlling and regulating the PCD, several large sets of PCD-related proteins across 28 species were analyzed using a wide array of modern bioinformatics tools. This study indicates that the intrinsic disorder phenomenon has to be taken into consideration to generate a complete picture of the interconnected processes, pathways, and modules that determine the essence of the PCD. We demonstrate that proteins involved in regulation and execution of PCD possess substantial amount of intrinsic disorder. We annotate functional roles of disorder across and within apoptosis, autophagy, and necroptosis processes. Disordered regions are shown to be implemented in a number of crucial functions, such as protein–protein interactions, interactions with other partners including nucleic acids and other ligands, are enriched in post-translational modification sites, and are characterized by specific evolutionary patterns. We mapped the disorder into an integrated network of PCD pathways and into the interactomes of selected proteins that are involved in the p53-mediated apoptotic signaling pathway.
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