The human genome contains around 20,000 genes which encode proteins. These proteins are responsible for carrying out most of the activities that take place inside our cells. Complex activities, like sending a signal from one neuron to another, require many proteins to work together in a sophisticated and carefully controlled way. Interactions between proteins are similar to a social network - each protein can interact with many others, in different situations, to participate in different activities. Understanding the “social network” of a protein is, therefore, a key part of understanding how neurons and circuits work. In addition, this can help us in our search for novel genes that are involved in neurodevelopmental syndromes which have similar features, since the encoded proteins of related disorders are often clustered in the same molecular pathways. In this project, we take a gene that has been robustly implicated in severe speech and language disorders, such as FOXP2, as a starting point. We study the encoded protein using experimental methods that allow us to identify the networks of proteins with which it interacts, and then we characterise the nature of those interactions in-depth.
Estruch, S. B., et al. (2018). Proteomic analysis of FOXP proteins reveals interactions between cortical transcription factors associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. Human Molecular Genetics, 27(7), 1212-1227. doi:10.1093/hmg/ddy035. [pdf]
Estruch, S. B., Graham, S. A., Deriziotis, P., & Fisher, S. E. (2016). The language-related transcription factor FOXP2 is post-translationally modified with small ubiquitin-like modifiers. Scientific Reports, 6: 20911. doi:10.1038/srep20911.