Polypeptide assembly is essential for life and occurs in diverse ways within living organisms. We seek to elucidate the factors that control natural assembly processes that remain poorly understood, in particular the forces that give rise to liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) within cells. The widespread occurrence of LLPS in biology has become appreciated over only the past decade, and this area offers fascinating mysteries at the molecular level. Insights on LLPS may help us understand the origins of life.
In a related effort, we seek to extrapolate beyond biological protein assembly by exploring interactions between polypeptides composed of typical L-amino acid residues and those composed of D-amino acid residues. We have recently characterized specific modes of association between alpha-helices formed from L- and D-peptides.