Role of Moonlighting Proteins in Disease : Analyzing the Contribution of Canonical and Moonlighting Functions in Disease Progression

Josep A Pérez-Pons, Jaume Piñol Ribas, Enrique Querol Murillo, Mario Huerta Casado, Luis Franco Serrano, Isaac Amela Abellan, Angel Mozo-Villarias, Juan Antonio Cedano Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The term moonlighting proteins refers to those proteins that present alternative functions performed by a single polypeptide chain acquired throughout evolution (called canonical and moonlighting, respectively). Over 78% of moonlighting proteins are involved in human diseases, 48% are targeted by current drugs, and over 25% of them are involved in the virulence of pathogenic microorganisms. These facts encouraged us to study the link between the functions of moonlighting proteins and disease. We found a large number of moonlighting functions activated by pathological conditions that are highly involved in disease development and progression. The factors that activate some moonlighting functions take place only in pathological conditions, such as specific cellular translocations or changes in protein structure. Some moonlighting functions are involved in disease promotion while others are involved in curbing it. The disease-impairing moonlighting functions attempt to restore the homeostasis, or to reduce the damage linked to the imbalance caused by the disease. The disease-promoting moonlighting functions primarily involve the immune system, mesenchyme cross-talk, or excessive tissue proliferation. We often find moonlighting functions linked to the canonical function in a pathological context. Moonlighting functions are especially coordinated in inflammation and cancer. Wound healing and epithelial to mesenchymal transition are very representative. They involve multiple moonlighting proteins with a different role in each phase of the process, contributing to the current-phase phenotype or promoting a phase switch, mitigating the damage or intensifying the remodeling. All of this implies a new level of complexity in the study of pathology genesis, progression, and treatment. The specific protein function involved in a patient's progress or that is affected by a drug must be elucidated for the correct treatment of diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Article number235
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Moonlighting proteins
  • Wound-healing
  • Cancer wound-healing
  • Stress
  • Inflammation
  • Stem cells
  • Proliferation
  • Fibrosis


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