Shortly after 9am today, the PRBB Auditorium was nearly full and ready for the start of the X CRG Annual Symposium on “Computational Biology of Molecular sequences”. With nearly 400 people registered – coming from more than 14 different countries – and 20 top speakers, the success was guaranteed.
Temple Smith (Boston University) opened the symposium with his Homo sapiens-Neanderthal mystery, which nobody in the audience was able to solve. You can see his talk and those of all other speakers at the conference’s website.
Michele Vendruscolo (Cambridge) summarized very well the main question of the meeting: what information are we able to extract from a sequence? That’s, after all, what all the people in this room are working on, though at different levels.
Vendruscolo told us that proteins are expressed at their critical concentration, and that even a slight increase or decrease in solubility leads to aggregation. Since aggregation is at the core of many diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson, this means the line between health and disease is very very fine indeed. Going back to his original question, he showed how the aminoacid (Aa) sequence determines folding, aggregation or complex formation propensities, and that even the maximum levels of mRNA expression can be predicted from the Aa sequence.
Amos Bairoch (University of Geneva), the father of the Swiss-Prot database, told us about his newest adventure: neXtProt. This is a new resource that aims to integrate all the information available about all human proteins. It is based on the sequence information at UniProt/Swiss-Prot, but it integrates (only for Human proteins) in one same database information on protein sequence, protein expression, mRNA expression, chromosome location, exon mapping, protein-protein interaction, post-translational modifications, and others, including, in the future, a 3D visualization tool. An enormous effort that promises to be very useful.
By midday, the Auditorium was proper packed to hear Eugene Koonin (NCBI) talking about whether universal laws in evolutionary genomics do actually exist. His point is that yes, they do, and that “evolutionarygenomics is not that different from physics or chemistry”.
Report by Maruxa Martinez, Scientific Editor at the PRBB