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This week we profile a recent publication in PNAS from the laboratory
of Dr. Jörg Gsponer (pictured) at the Michael Smith Laboratories.

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

We are interested in intrinsically disordered proteins and their contribution to signalling and regulation in cells. We develop and apply computational methods that help us reveal how intrinsically disordered protein regions mediate regulatory intra- and intermolecular interactions. A specific focus are disordered regions that act as activation switches and/or lead to protein phase separation.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

The discovery of protein phase separation has had a massive impact on biochemical and cell biology research in the last 5-7 years. Most of the phase separating systems are from eukaryotes. We now show that phase separation also occurs in virulent bacterium and that it is likely involved in the regulation of the activity of a transmembrane transporter that is a virulence factor. Understanding how phase separation controls activity of this virulence factor may help in the discovery of new types of antibiotics.

What are the next steps for this research?

We want to discover the substrate of this transporter and reveal how phase separation contributes to the activity regulation of the transporter, i.e. changes substrate transport.

This work was funded by:

NSERC/CIHR

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