Rohit V. Pappu, PhD

Biomedical Engineering
Hope Center for Neurological Disorders

Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology Program
Computational and Systems Biology Program
Plant and Microbial Biosciences Program

  • 314-935-7958

  • 314-935-5416

  • 314-935-7448

  • Brauer Hall (Danforth Campus), Room 2015



  • Huntington`s disease; Polyglutamine Aggregation; Intrinsically Disordered Proteins; Phase transitions in cell biology; Self-assembly; Transcriptional regulation; Small-scale Systems Biology & Interaction Networks;

  • Biophysics of intrinsically disordered proteins

Research Abstract:

Research in the Pappu lab is focused on intrinsically disordered proteomes. Multiscale modeling approaches and biophysical tools are used in this research. Eukaryotic proteomes are enriched in proteins that function despite being unable to fold autonomously into well defined three-dimensional structures. These intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) challenge the conventional wisdom regarding protein structure-function relationships and are involved in regulating signaling and transcription by serving as hubs in protein interaction networks. The lab is working on the sequence determinants of flavors of disorder to facilitate de novo design and remodeling of protein interaction networks. Studies are also focused on the mechanisms of IDP self-assembly that lead to the onset and progression of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease.
In specific projects Pappu’s team has focused on the mechanisms of protein aggregation using a combination of polymer physics, multiscale simulations, as well as in vitro and in cell experiments. The current focus is on the mechanisms of aggregation of proteins with expanded polyglutamine tracts. This is directly relevant to Huntington’s disease and eight other neurodegenerative disorders. Recent efforts have focused on the cis-regulation of polyglutamine aggregation by flanking sequences derived from huntingtin and the interplay between aggregation and heterotypic interactions as determinants of neurodegeneration.
Investigations of sequence-to-ensemble relationships of IDPs are being leveraged to understand how conformational heterogeneity is used to achieve specificity in molecular recognition. The systems of active investigation include dimer-forming transcription factors, single-stranded DNA binding proteins that are hubs in DNA metabolism and repair, the Notch intracellular domain that is central to determining cellular fate, proteins of the nuclear transport system, microtubule associated proteins that regulate axonal transport, and RNA binding proteins involved in bacterial anti-termination and regulation of splicing. Efforts are underway to extract common principles from the study of specific IDP systems in order to converge on a framework that enables the prediction and remodeling of cellular phenotypes that result from integrative responses of nested hierarchies of biomolecular networks.

Selected Publications:

Crick, S.L., Ruff, K.M., Garai, K., Frieden, C., Pappu, R.V. (2013) Unmasking the roles of N- and C-terminal flankking sequences from exon 1 of huntingtin as modulators of polyglutamine aggregation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 110: 20075-20080

Das,R.K., Pappu, R.V. (2013). Conformations of intrinsically disordered proteins are influenced by linear sequence distributions of oppositely charged residues. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 110: 13392-13397.

Meng, W., Lyle, N., Luan, B., Raleigh, D.P., Pappu, R.V. (2013). Experiments and simulations show how long-range contacts can form in expanded unfolded proteins with negligible secondary structure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 110: 2123-2128.

Babu, M.M., Kriwacki, R.W., Pappu, R.V. (2012). Versatility from protein disorder. Science, 337:1460-1461.

Das RK, Crick SL, Pappu RV. (2012) N-terminal segments modulate the α-helical propensities of the intrinsically disordered basic regions of bZIP proteins. Journal of Molecular Biology, 416: 287-299.

Vitalis, A., Pappu, R.V. (2011). Assessing the contribution of heterogeneous distributions of oligomers to aggregation mechanisms of polyglutamine peptides. Biophysical Chemistry, 159: 14-23.

Halfmann, R., Alberti, S., Krishnan, R., Lyle, N., O`Donnell, C.W., King, O.D., Berger, B., Pappu, R.V., Lindquist, S. (2011). Opposing effects of glutamine and asparagine govern prion formation by intrinsically disordered proteins. Molecular Cell, 43: 72-84.

Mao, A.H., Crick, S.L., Vitalis, A., Chicoine, C., Pappu, R.V. Net charge per residue modulates conformational ensembles of intrinsically disordered proteins. (2010) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 107: 8183-8188.

Williamson, T.E., Vitalis, A., Crick, S.L., Pappu, R.V. Modulation of polyglutamine conformations and dimer formation by the N-terminus of Huntingtin. (2010). Journal of Molecular Biology, 396: 1295-1309.

Hu, X., Crick, S.L., Bu, G., Frieden, C., Pappu, R.V., Lee, J-M. Amyloid seeds formed by cellular uptake, concentration, and aggregation of the amyloid-beta peptide. (2009). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 106: 20324-20329.

Last Updated: 1/23/2014 10:34:11 AM

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