The Statistical Trends of Protein Evolution: A Lesson from AlphaFold Database

Qian Yuan Tang*, Weitong Ren, Jun Wang, Kunihiko Kaneko*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The recent development of artificial intelligence provides us with new and powerful tools for studying the mysterious relationship between organism evolution and protein evolution. In this work, based on the AlphaFold Protein Structure Database (AlphaFold DB), we perform comparative analyses of the proteins of different organisms. The statistics of AlphaFold-predicted structures show that, for organisms with higher complexity, their constituent proteins will have larger radii of gyration, higher coil fractions, and slower vibrations, statistically. By conducting normal mode analysis and scaling analyses, we demonstrate that higher organismal complexity correlates with lower fractal dimensions in both the structure and dynamics of the constituent proteins, suggesting that higher functional specialization is associated with higher organismal complexity. We also uncover the topology and sequence bases of these correlations. As the organismal complexity increases, the residue contact networks of the constituent proteins will be more assortative, and these proteins will have a higher degree of hydrophilic-hydrophobic segregation in the sequences. Furthermore, by comparing the statistical structural proximity across the proteomes with the phylogenetic tree of homologous proteins, we show that, statistical structural proximity across the proteomes may indirectly reflect the phylogenetic proximity, indicating a statistical trend of protein evolution in parallel with organism evolution. This study provides new insights into how the diversity in the functionality of proteins increases and how the dimensionality of the manifold of protein dynamics reduces during evolution, contributing to the understanding of the origin and evolution of lives.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermsac197
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

User-Defined Keywords

  • evolution of plasticity and complexity
  • normal mode analysis
  • protein evolution
  • protein structure and dynamics
  • scaling analysis


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