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Proteins Length and their Phenotypic Potential
Mendelian Disease Genes represent a collection of single points of failure for the various systems they constitute. Such genes have been shown, on average, to encode longer proteins than 'non-disease' proteins. Existing models suggest that this results from the increased likeli-hood of longer genes undergoing mutations. Here, we show that in saturated mutagenesis experiments performed on model organisms, where the likelihood of each gene mutating is one, a similar relationship between length and the probability of a gene being lethal was observed. We thus suggest an extended model demonstrating that the likelihood of a mutated gene to produce a severe phenotype is length-dependent. Using the occurrence of conserved domains, we bring evidence that this dependency results from a correlation between protein length and the number of functions it performs. We propose that protein length thus serves as a proxy for protein cardinality in different networks required for the organism's survival and well-being. We use this example to argue that the collection of Mendelian Disease Genes can, and should, be used to study the rules governing systems vulnerability in living organisms.


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