Maintaining the proper three-dimensional structure, concentration, activity, and localization of proteins is a critical and constant challenge for all organisms. Dysregulated protein homeostasis is inextricably linked to disease states. Accordingly, the most prominent diseases of modern times—including neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, loss-of-function diseases like cystic fibrosis, many types of cancer, and even viral infections—are either caused directly by a failure to maintain protein homeostasis or reliant on innate cellular protein folding mechanisms. Proteome repair achieved by targeting the cellular mechanisms that regulate protein folding could transform the therapeutic options for broad swaths of protein folding-related disease. Critically, methods to intervene in a single important protein folding pathway could be applied to multiple, diverse pathologies.
The Shoulders Group is interested in understanding how cells fold proteins. We use a variety of experimental approaches, including chemical perturbation of the proteostasis network, disease model systems and evolutionary biology-based strategies. We also aim to develop efficient in vivo directed evolution strategies to enable progress in the proteostasis field and to promote generation of new and valuable biotechnologies.