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Mutational Survivorship Bias: The case of PNKP
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  • Luis Bermúdez-Guzmán,
  • Gabriel Jiménez-Huezo,
  • Andrés Arguedas,
  • Alejandro Leal
Luis Bermúdez-Guzmán
University of Costa Rica School of Biology
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Gabriel Jiménez-Huezo
University of Costa Rica School of Biology
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Andrés Arguedas
University of Costa Rica Faculty of Economics
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Alejandro Leal
University of Costa Rica School of Biology
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Abstract

The molecular function of a protein relies on its structure. Understanding how mutations alter structure and function in multi-domain proteins, is key to elucidate how a pathological phenotype is generated. However, one may fall into the logical bias of assessing protein damage only based on the mutations that are viable (survivorship bias), which can lead to partial conclusions. This is the case of PNKP, an important nuclear and mitochondrial DNA repair enzyme with kinase and phosphatase function. Most mutations in PNKP are confined to the kinase domain, leading to a pathological spectrum of three apparently distinct clinical entities. Since proteins and domains may have a different tolerance to disease causing mutations, we evaluated whether mutations in PNKP are under survivorship bias. Even when all mutations in the kinase domain are deleterious, we found a mayor mutation tolerability landscape in terms of survival. Instead, the phosphatase domain is less tolerant due to its low mutation rates, higher degree of sequence conservation, lower dN/dS ratios, and more disease-propensity hotspots. Thus, in multi-domain proteins, we propose the term “Wald’s domain” for those who are not apparently more associated with disease, but that are less resistant to mutations in terms of survival.