2013 Annual Meeting

What an exciting symposium—the motto was Functional Roles of Protein Disorder, and that there is plenty of function in disorder became clear with the fascinating talks that entertained a standing-room-only crowd. The program ranged from proteins that use their disorder to function as chaperones and histone tails that mediate DNA compaction to systems biology of IDP synthesis and degradation.

The program got off to a great start with keynote lecturer Peter Wright, Scripps Research Institute, who expertly reviewed the advances that have been made towards understanding the biophysics, structural biology, and biological function of intrinsically disordered proteins, focusing on the principal concepts that have emerged so far about the diverse functional mechanisms of IDPs. He gave beautiful examples to show how biology utilizes IDPs to perform critical cellular functions for which globular proteins would be poorly suited. Jim Bardwell, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Michigan, followed in Wright’s footsteps, focusing on the intriguing discovery that intrinsic disorder in some molecular chaperones is essential for their functional activity. Stress-induced unfolding triggers their activation, illustrating the importance of intrinsic disorder for client recognition and binding. Next, Jennifer Lee, National Institutes of Health (NIH), discussed her exciting work on the intimate relationship between the amyloid-forming intrinsically disordered protein α-synuclein and membranes, with an emphasis on the effects of membrane remodeling on amyloid formation. Ad Bax, NIH, continued with the α-synuclein theme, talking about the use of NMR to study structure and dynamics of α-synuclein. His talk beautifully illustrated the functional role of α-synuclein’s intrinsic disorder in mediating removal of highly toxic lipid peroxides from membranes. Elisar Barbar, Oregon State University, closed the first session with a fascinating talk highlighting the functional importance of intrinsically disordered regions in fine-tuning the assembly of higher order macromolecular complexes.

After a break, Ben Schuler, University of Zürich, Switzerland, demonstrated how single-molecule FRET can be used to probe distance distributions and reconfiguration dynamics of unfolded proteins and IDPs. It turns out that many of the properties of IDPs can be described surprisingly well with mean-field polymer theory, including the role of charge interactions, denaturants, and the effect of internal friction on chain dynamics. His presentation was followed by Liesbeth Veenhoff, University of Groningen, The Netherlands, talking on the Nuclear Pore Complex (NPC), which is long known as a molecular machine that heavily relies on the function of IDPs which form the permeability barrier of the NPC. She highlighted a new role for ID domains in the nuclear transport of integral membrane proteins. She showed how an ID linker domain of approximately 180 amino acids is part of the sorting signal that facilitates the transport of particular Baker’s yeast membrane proteins through the NPC from the outer to the inner membrane. Next, Garagin Papoian, University of Maryland, discussed an energy landscape-based approach to understanding IDPs using histone tails as a prominent example. He showed that various tails are characterized by complex landscapes and, furthermore, how these landscapes can be specifically modulated via posttranslational modifications, such as lysine acetylations. Continuing on the theme of chromatin-related research, Jeff Hayes, University of Rochester, described elegant experiments in which FRET was used to document condensation of the linker histone H1 CTD upon binding to nucleosomes, DNA and oliogonucleosome arrays. Results indicated that the H1 CTD exists as a random coil in the unbound state but adopts distinct structures depending on the binding target of the protein.

Jörg Langowski, German Cancer Research Center, reported on very interesting atomistic simulations of nucleosomal particles with various histone tails being deleted. His group found that nucleosomal dynamics is sensitively modulated by the tails. Finally, the session was closed by the second keynote speaker, Lila Gierasch, University of Massachusetts, who gave a fascinating talk on merging the fields of IDPs and Systems Biology. Her lab developed sophisticated kinetic models of protein syntheses and degradation in vivo, which opens new horizons for predicting protein misfolding and aggregation and ways to potentially overcome various degenerative diseases.

In addition, the recipients o f this year’s Postdoctoral Research Awards presented short talks during the symposium. Xu Wang, University of Texas Medical School at Houston, studies the intrinsically disordered protein PEP-19 and introduced us to its important regulatory role in calcium and calmodulin signaling. Abhinav Nath, Yale University, presented exciting data on the screening and design of chemical modulators that affect the Members in the News Peter Wolynes, Rice University and Society member since 1994, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences Council. Charles Lieber, Harvard University and Society member since 2011, is the most recent recipient of the American Chemical Society’s Willard Gibbs Medal. Cornelia Bargmann, Rockefeller University and Society member since 2000, has been awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences from the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation. membrane binding and toxicity of the intrinsically disordered peptide hormone IAPP, whose amyloid formation contributes to pancreatic β-cell death in type 2 diabetes.

Ursula Jakob and Garegin Papoian, IDP Subgroup co-chairs


The Biopolymers in Vivo (BIV) subgroup is busily planning its activities for the next Annual Meeting. Program co-chairs Jeff Skolnick and Gilad Haran are crafting a program for the BIV symposium that will include stimulating lectures on biophysics inside the cell. Our members-atlarge, including newly elected member Simon Ebbinghaus, who joins Daryl Eggers and Joan Shea, are charged with raising awareness about the shared interests of those in BIV and attracting new members. At the BIV Business Meeting held at the Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Eggers proposed a logo contest, and with uniform support for his proposal, the BIV Subgroup will launch a contest in 2013 to design a logo that captures the essence of the group. This logo will appear on the subgroup’s homepage and may appear in future BPS newsletters with the subgroup’s reports and announcements. Please alert your students now so that they can begin to brainstorm on their design. Details of the contest rules will be shared in the next newsletter.

We welcome our other new officers, Jeetain Mittal, treasurer/secretary, and Silvia Cavagnero, chair-elect. We are all eager to hear your thoughts on BIV activities, speaker suggestions, and more! Please encourage your students to participate in the Student Research Achievement Award (SRAA) poster competition and your postdoctoral fellows to submit abstracts for next year’s Annual Meeting on topics that might be featured at the BIV symposium. We will be selecting young investigator speakers to present at the BIV symposium based on the submitted abstracts.

Lila Gierasch, BIV Subgroup chair

May 2013 Table of Contents