Simple biophysics underpins collective conformations of the intrinsically disordered proteins of the Nuclear Pore Complex

Elife. 2016 May 20;5:e10785. doi: 10.7554/eLife.10785.


Nuclear Pore Complexes (NPCs) are key cellular transporter that control nucleocytoplasmic transport in eukaryotic cells, but its transport mechanism is still not understood. The centerpiece of NPC transport is the assembly of intrinsically disordered polypeptides, known as FG nucleoporins, lining its passageway. Their conformations and collective dynamics during transport are difficult to assess in vivo. In vitro investigations provide partially conflicting results, lending support to different models of transport, which invoke various conformational transitions of the FG nucleoporins induced by the cargo-carrying transport proteins. We show that the spatial organization of FG nucleoporin assemblies with the transport proteins can be understood within a first principles biophysical model with a minimal number of key physical variables, such as the average protein interaction strengths and spatial densities. These results address some of the outstanding controversies and suggest how molecularly divergent NPCs in different species can perform essentially the same function.

Keywords: biophysics; computational biology; intrinsically disordered proteins; none; nulcear pore complex; phase separation; polymers; structural biology; systems biology; theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena*
  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins / chemistry*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins / chemistry*
  • Protein Conformation


  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins

Grant support

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.