At the 2012 meeting of the Protein Society in San Diego, IDP pedagogy was addressed in a lunchtime “Educator’s Workshop” chaired by Ellis Bell, University of Richmond; H. Jane Dyson, The Scripps Research Institute; and Elizabeth A. Komives, University of California. Each presented some approaches to a protein science curriculum. Below is an overview of the workshop.

Dyson reviewed her work on IDPs, which began with studies of the CDK inhibitor, p21 and continued with the transcriptional coactivator CBP and its various binding partners. She emphasized that the notions of NMR chemical shift dispersion and HSQC-monitored titrations are accessible to undergraduates.Relaxation-dispersion experiments and their interpretation are more suited for upper-year students. Students should learn the functional scenarios for functional disorder, including the enhancement of specificity (larger interfaces for a given mass of protein), energetically-accessible conformational switching between functional states, and the accessibility of a given state to post-translational modifications or proteolysis. The discussion elaborated on how post-translational modifications alone rarely effect large conformational transitions, but rather shift the enthalpy/entropy balance of an association process.

Komives presented a handful of concepts she thought were appropriate for undergraduates. She prefers to introduce the notion of native structure through energy landscape theory. This helps to avoid the misunderstanding that IDPs are completely unfolded/extended—a notion complemented by the study of the worm-like chain model. Komives advocated the introduction of IDP predictors (suitable for interactive classroom use and study), hydrogen-deuterium exchange, and single molecule FRET. Students should be familiar with the idea that disordered proteins can be more prone to fibrillization. The ensuing discussion addressed the continuum of conformational order in the protein universe. Textbooks have not yet incorporated much IDP material; a notable exception is the latest edition of Alberts and others’ Molecular Biology of the Cell.

-Ryan Hoffman

 November 2012 Table of Contents