Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Neuroscience Seminar Series: Professor David Komander

10 October 2019

Event date: 15 October 2019

Seminar: Professor David Komander, Head, Ubiquitin Signalling Division, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

When: Tuesday 15 October, 1-2 pm

Where: Ian Potter Auditorium, Kenneth Myer Building, 30 Royal Parade Parkville


Protein ubiquitination, as its name implies, is ubiquitous, and is emerging as a key regulator of protein homeostasis and cell signalling. Deregulation of protein ubiquitination is involved in a variety of human diseases, including cancer, neurodegenerative and inflammatory conditions. The last decade has shown that a plethora of distinct ubiquitin signals exist. My lab tries to understand the complex ‘ubiquitin code’ by focussing on the different ubiquitin signals themselves, in order to eventually link the specificity in the system back to physiological functions.

A major playground for ubiquitin research in the past five years has focussed on mitochondrial ubiquitination events that lead to mitophagy. This process involves the ubiquitin(-fold) kinase PINK1 and the E3 ligase Parkin. Mutation in either protein cause early-onset Parkinson’s disease.

Using biochemical, structural and cell-biological studies, we have arrived at a detailed molecular description of PINK1/Parkin mediated mitophagy, and now appreciate the mechanisms leading to PINK1 and Parkin activation. I will further discuss unpublished methods and tools that allow us to study ubiquitination in novel ways. This has led to a complete picture of what the actual mitophagy signal looks like.


David Komander studied in Germany and Scotland, working on protein kinase structures during his PhD in Dundee. As a postdoc in London, he initiated work on tumour suppressor deubiquitinases, leading to the first structures on CYLD and A20. Focussing on E3 ligases, ubiquitin binding domains and deubiquitinases, he went on to set up his own highly successful research group at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK.  He was recipient for the Lister prize in 2012 and became an EMBO member in 2014. At the end of 2018 David Komander moved to Australia to become head of the newly founded Ubiquitin Signalling Division at the Water and Eliza Hall Institute in Parkville.


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