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Mittag Lab: About Us

Welcome to the lab of Tanja Mittag, PhD

Function of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) and "fuzzy" complexes

The Mittag lab studies the function of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) in cell signaling. IDPs, which do not adopt unique, well-folded structures, are ubiquitous in all kingdoms of life and most common in multi-cellular eukaryotes. More than 30% of all human proteins, 79% of all cancer-associated proteins and many proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases have long disordered regions.

IDPs are highly enriched in signaling processes and appear to have key functions in mediating protein interactions. However, our understanding of the underlying molecular processes is still very limited. The Mittag lab is interested in elucidating the physiological functions of disorder, and determining why dynamic and disordered protein complexes are often more beneficial than stably folded complexes in signal transduction. Recent work highlights the role of IDPs in the formation of membrane-less organelles in cells, such as nucleoli, nuclear speckles and stress granules.

Current projects in the lab focus on:

  • Dynamic protein assemblies in the ubiquitination pathway
  • Liquid-liquid phase separation, protein-rich droplets and their relationship to membrane-less organelles and disease
  • Sequence/conformation relationship of intrinsically disordered proteins

We recently received an R01 grant from NIGMS to investigate the role of multivalency in SPOP-mediated ubiquitination.

Improving our understanding of the function of IDPs may provide opportunities to develop drugs that specifically target these proteins, potentially leading to novel therapeutics for cancer and neurodegenerative disease.

Methodology: A combination of biophysical techniques combined with biochemistry and cell biology approaches

We use a combination of biophysical, biochemical and cell biological approaches to characterize IDPs and correlate their properties with their biological functions. Our primary biophysical tools include NMR spectroscopy, light scattering, fluorescence approaches and analytical ultracentrifugation.

Read more at Mittag Lab: Research.