Timing matters: Condensates’ composition determined by when RNA is added

Biomolecular condensates transport RNA molecules inside of cells for functions such as cell signaling and regulating cell processes, but little is known about how they form distinct compositional identities, similar to how oil and water stay separated.  Rohit V. Pappu, PhD, the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering in the McKelvey School of […]

Mapping the cell’s membrane-less compartments

Cells are compartmentalized into distinct communities, with organelles and membranes keeping specific proteins and processes in one place. Interestingly, even without the benefit of a membrane, proteins and molecules can be concentrated into membraneless bodies known as biomolecular condensates. These condensates include bodies known as stress granules that form and dissolve in response to and […]

Pappu installed as Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Rohit V. Pappu, PhD, an internationally renowned researcher in biomolecular condensates and intrinsically disordered proteins, was installed Oct. 9 as the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. Pappu is a professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Center for Biomolecular Condensates at the McKelvey School of […]

Looking deeper with adaptive six-dimensional nanoscopy

Matthew Lew, PhD, an associate professor of electrical and systems engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has received a five-year $2 million Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support his ongoing work to improve microscopic imaging techniques. Lew will use the […]

Pappu to explore ways in which charge contributes to diverse states of proteins

Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) are defined by structural diversity, and the determinants of this diversity are an important area of biophysical investigation. IDPs are involved in a range of important biological processes, including cell signaling and regulation, that allow healthy cells to respond to environmental factors appropriately, but they are also associated with human diseases […]

Interfaces play important role in condensate behavior

Before mixing an oil-and-vinegar-based salad dressing, the individual drops of vinegar are easily seen suspended in the oil, each with a perfectly circular boundary that delineates the two liquids. In the same way, our cells contain condensed bundles of proteins and nucleic acids called condensates delineated by clear boundaries. The boundaries are known as interfaces […]

Center for Biomolecular Condensates launches

A new multidisciplinary center focused on biomolecular condensates — distinct molecular communities that make up the building blocks of life — has launched at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. The center kicked off with an inaugural symposium Oct. 14, highlighted by the Condensates Colloquium Series. Center director Rohit Pappu, PhD, […]

How do cells take out the trash?

Unfolded proteins are unhealthy proteins. When found inside of cells, they are rounded up, identified, and destroyed. This is an important quality-control process, especially in the brain and the heart. How these unfolded proteins are identified, however, has been a mystery. Now, research led by Kiersten Ruff, a senior research scientist in the lab of […]

New structure found in cells

Every cell contains millions of protein molecules. Some of them have the ability to phase-separate to form non-membrane-bound compartments, called biomolecular condensates, inside a cell. It has long been assumed that there was no further structure underlying these condensates, only solution-soluble proteins. A research group led by Rohit Pappu, PhD, the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor […]

Pappu lab untangles more IDR secrets

Intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) of proteins, when tethered to folded domains, function either as flexible tails or as linkers between domains. Most IDRs are composed of a mixture of oppositely charged residues. Recent measurements of tethered polyampholytes have shown that arginine- and lysine-rich sequences tend to behave very differently from one another. In a paper […]

Understanding features that help cells stay organized

The labs of Tanja Mittag, PhD at St. Jude and Rohit Pappu, PhD, the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, created a stickers-and-spacers model to discern the rules underlying the driving forces for phase separation. The “stickers” and “spacers” are different types of amino acids along the […]

International team finds new mechanism critical for formation of membrane vesicles

Researchers from the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Université de Montréal and McGill University have discovered a new mechanism by which membrane vesicles are made. The roles played by these self-contained nanoparticles are essential to the normal function of our cells. Their dysfunction is implicated in diseases ranging from cancers […]

NIH awards $3.1 million grant for WashU, St. Jude ALS research

Scientists from Washington University in St. Louis and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have been awarded a five-year $3.1 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Rohit Pappu, PhD, the Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering in the Department of Biomedical Engineering […]

Pappu, collaborators awarded $7.5 million MURI award

Rohit Pappu, the Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, is part of multi-institution team to receive a highly competitive 2020 Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) award from the Department of Defense. The five-year $7.5 million grant is shared with three other universities and is aimed […]

Collaboration lets researchers ‘read’ proteins for new properties

Clumps of proteins inside cells are a common thread in many neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. These clumps, or solid aggregates of proteins, appear to be the result of an abnormality in the process known as liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS), in which individual proteins come together to form a […]

Uncovering molecular grammar

Collaborative team deciphers the protein sequence-encoded mechanism that drives phase separation From the WashU School of Engineering & Applied Science News… An international research collaboration including engineers from Washington University in St. Louis have discovered a protein sequence mechanism that triggers phase separation deep within a single cell. Their findings, published in Cell, could provide […]

Imaging a killer

International team finds high-resolution structural analysis of protein behind Huntington’s From the WashU Newsroom… Huntington’s disease is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative disorder that is caused by mutations in one specific gene called huntingtin (Htt). In the 20-plus years since the Htt gene was identified, researchers have focused on the protein encoded by the Htt gene, […]