For Understanding Biological
Phenomena in the Cell

In this project, we study various biomolecules in the cell, whose structures and functions are unknown tounderstand the effect of intracellular environments on structures and functions of biomolecules by integrating information from structural biology, molecular and cellular biology, and computational sciences.

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The inside of the cell is highly crowded with proteins, nucleic acids, metabolites, and ions. In this macromolecular crowding environments, proteins weakly interact with other biomolecules in contact, while they find their functional partners to be bound strongly and express their molecular functions accurately. In the conventional biology, specific protein functions have been investigated in detail together with the elucidation of the atomic structures. Recently, the existence of liquid droplets or membraneless organelle has been found in the cytoplasm as well as the cellular nucleus. They are found to play essential roles on many cellular functions. Importantly, the cellular environments themselves are composed of proteins and nucleic acids in the cell. This means that we have to answer the following two questions:

(i) How do the cellular crowded environments affect each protein structure and function?

(ii) How are the cellular environments composed of proteins and other biomolecules?

In this project, we integrate structural biology, molecular and cellular biology and computational science to answer these questions, which we think important for better understanding of various biological phenomena in the cell. Our research targets include intrinsically disordered proteins and their interactions with other biomolecules. Therefore, we need to examine static as well as dynamic structures of biomolecules or biomolecular assemblies. In collaboration between various experimental biology and computational biophysics, we aim to start new strategy in life science research.

Project leader Yuji Sugita (Theoretical Molecular Science Laboratory)