Research Topic

Tackling the Unstructured: State of the Art Technologies for Investigations of Flexible Biomolecules

About this Research Topic

The functional role of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) and regions (IDRs) in health and disease is perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of structural biology. Thanks to rigorous work conducted over the last decade, it is established beyond doubt that a stable folded structure is not a requirement for function. Even more so, unstructured peptides and proteins are key players in many fundamental cellular processes from condensate formation to cellular signaling. These dynamic biomolecules also play a central role in many human diseases such as Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s. Thus, there is significant demand for technologies facilitating “unstructural” biology to understand the molecular basis of IDP/IDR function. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and other solution techniques, notably small-angle scattering, excel in the “structural” characterization of flexible, unstructured systems, with computational modeling and simulation playing a crucial role in the interpretation and visualization of the unstructured.

The purpose of this Research Topic is to highlight the state-of-the-art in the experimental or computational “structural” characterization of biomolecular systems that exhibit significant flexibility, and paradoxically a lack of structure. Thanks to continuous advances in NMR, SAXS and MD, increasingly detailed ensemble descriptions can be derived to understand the key molecular interactions that underlie specificity and affinity in IDR interactions, conformational switching, residual structure, conformational impact of post-translational modifications or the cellular environment. The central question to be answered is: How can the unstructured deliver function?

We invite contributions on the conformational and functional characterization of unstructured biological macromolecules. Specifically, this collection welcomes original research and perspectives focusing on the following and related themes:

• Integrative methodological approaches combining NMR, Small-Angle scattering and/or computational approached for structural characterization of flexible proteins
• Applications of NMR/Scattering/computations to conformational analysis of flexible proteins/nucleic acids
• Studies of IDR interactions, specifically those of Fuzzy Complexes and the conformationally ambiguous
• Studies that examine the impact of external factors from the protein sequence embedding to the cellular environment on IDR conformation and function
• Dynamics of disordered systems


Keywords: Disordered systems, NMR, SAXS, SANS, MD, Biophysics, Dynamics, Protein structure, Flexibility


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The functional role of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) and regions (IDRs) in health and disease is perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of structural biology. Thanks to rigorous work conducted over the last decade, it is established beyond doubt that a stable folded structure is not a requirement for function. Even more so, unstructured peptides and proteins are key players in many fundamental cellular processes from condensate formation to cellular signaling. These dynamic biomolecules also play a central role in many human diseases such as Huntington’s or Alzheimer’s. Thus, there is significant demand for technologies facilitating “unstructural” biology to understand the molecular basis of IDP/IDR function. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and other solution techniques, notably small-angle scattering, excel in the “structural” characterization of flexible, unstructured systems, with computational modeling and simulation playing a crucial role in the interpretation and visualization of the unstructured.

The purpose of this Research Topic is to highlight the state-of-the-art in the experimental or computational “structural” characterization of biomolecular systems that exhibit significant flexibility, and paradoxically a lack of structure. Thanks to continuous advances in NMR, SAXS and MD, increasingly detailed ensemble descriptions can be derived to understand the key molecular interactions that underlie specificity and affinity in IDR interactions, conformational switching, residual structure, conformational impact of post-translational modifications or the cellular environment. The central question to be answered is: How can the unstructured deliver function?

We invite contributions on the conformational and functional characterization of unstructured biological macromolecules. Specifically, this collection welcomes original research and perspectives focusing on the following and related themes:

• Integrative methodological approaches combining NMR, Small-Angle scattering and/or computational approached for structural characterization of flexible proteins
• Applications of NMR/Scattering/computations to conformational analysis of flexible proteins/nucleic acids
• Studies of IDR interactions, specifically those of Fuzzy Complexes and the conformationally ambiguous
• Studies that examine the impact of external factors from the protein sequence embedding to the cellular environment on IDR conformation and function
• Dynamics of disordered systems


Keywords: Disordered systems, NMR, SAXS, SANS, MD, Biophysics, Dynamics, Protein structure, Flexibility


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

28 August 2021 Abstract
26 December 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

28 August 2021 Abstract
26 December 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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