Rohit Pappu, PhD, the Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has learned from his students as well as his mentors. He can name every researcher he has worked with throughout his career. Pappu studies intrinsically disordered proteins and their role in neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Huntington’s disease is a devastating, incurable disorder that results from the death of certain neurons in the brain. Rohit Pappu, PhD, and colleagues in the engineering and medical schools are conducting studies to learn from nature’s own strategies to battle the disease.
For 100 years, the dogma has been that amino-acid sequences determine protein folding and that the folded structure determines the protein’s function. But as a Washington University in St. Louis engineer explains in the Sept. 20 issue of Science, a large class of proteins doesn’t adhere to the structure-function paradigm. Called intrinsically disordered proteins, these proteins fail fold either in whole or in part and yet they are functional.