Annual Meeting

Living in a bubble

A Discover BMB symposium: Protein Machines and Disorder
Y. Jessie Zhang Ivaylo Ivanov
By Y. Jessie Zhang and Ivaylo Ivanov
Sept. 29, 2022

In our cells, proteins assemble into amazingly dynamic macromolecular machines whose function and regulation underlie life’s essential processes. A perfect example is gene expression, in which cells depend on versatile biomolecular machines to harness the information in DNA.

Understanding the inner workings of these intricate assemblies is among the great challenges in the biomedical sciences. Knowledge was, until recently, severely limited by their sizes and complexity.

Therefore, our field has been greatly excited by the incredible advances in cryo-electron microscopy and its “resolution revolution,” which we will feature in our symposia at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting, Discover BMB, in Seattle in March.

A contrast to the highly structured protein complexes lies in the often underappreciated structurally disordered protein regions, which also will be in in the limelight during our symposia. Recent studies have shown that, far from being useless, these disordered regions can cause liquid–liquid phase separation — an omnipresent phenomenon in eukaryotic cells underpinning the formation of membraneless organelles.

Localization of protein machines within membraneless organelles allows them to work more efficiently or achieve necessary regulatory interactions. Conversely, condensate disruption compromises the function of the protein machines within, leading to human diseases.

Keywords: Protein complexes, gene expression, genome maintenance, intrinsically disordered regions, lipid–lipid phase separation, computational biology, cancer, neurodegeneration.

Who should attend: Anyone who works with proteins with ordered or disordered regions. (Well, isn’t that everybody?)

Theme song: “With a Little Help from My Friends” by the Beatles. (The protein machines work so efficiently with the help of the condensates formed by disordered regions of the proteins.)

This session is powered by structured proteins (yang) and droplets (yin).


Protein machines at the intersection of genome maintenance and gene regulation
Jessie Zhang (chair), University of Texas at Austin
Ivaylo IvanovGeorgia State University
Huilin LiVan Andel Institute
Tanya PaullUniversity of Texas at Austin
Yuan HeNorthwestern University

Methodology investigating disordered proteins and condensates
Ivaylo Ivanov (chair), Georgia State University
Jeetain MittalTexas A&M University
Jessie ZhangUniversity of Texas at Austin
Xavier DarzacqUniversity of California, Berkeley
Simon AltertiTechnische Universität Dresden

Disordered protein in diseases
James ShorterUniversity of Pennsylvania
Hao JiangUniversity of Virginia
Pinglong XuZhejiang University
Rebecca Page (chair), University of Connecticut

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Y. Jessie Zhang
Y. Jessie Zhang

Y. Jessie Zhang is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ivaylo Ivanov
Ivaylo Ivanov

Ivaylo Ivanov is a professor at Georgia State University.

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