Two ERC Advanced Grants for MPIB Directors
Elena Conti, director of the department "Cellular Structural Biology" and F. Ulrich Hartl, director of the research department "Cellular Biochemistry" at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, near Munich, Germany, each receive an ERC Advanced grant from the European Research Council (ERC) worth 2.1 million euros. Elena Conti and her research group will investigate so-called messenger ribonucleoprotein particles in the GOVERNA project. These large complexes contain mRNA and diverse proteins. F. Ulrich Hartl and his team in the INSITUFOLD project will investigate the basic dynamic functions of chaperones and their interactions with clients in living cells in real time.
Messenger ribonucleic acids, known as mRNAs, contain the genetic information that determines the structure of proteins to be produced. They are read from the DNA in the cell nucleus and passed on to the protein synthesis machinery in the cell plasma, the place where the mRNA is read and translated into amino acid chains. During their production, different proteins bind to the mRNA strands to form complexes called messenger ribonucleoprotein particles, mRNPs. Over the past few decades, Elena Conti and her team have deciphered the complex assembly of large, central machinery such as the exosome, a protein structure that degrades mRNAs. In her current project, GOVERNA, she will use state-of-the-art technology to explore the three-dimensional assembly of a wide range of other proteins that interact with mRNAs in dynamic and diverse ways. Knowledge of their structure their interplay and functioning will help understand the basic life cycles of mRNAs in cells. Given the recent developments in mRNA-based therapeutics, the study of mRNPs is particularly timely and relevant.