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Prof. Robert (Bob) Charles Robinson

Faculty Member (speciality lecturer and visiting professor from Okayama University, Japan)
Email  robert.b@vistec.ac.th

Structure Biology
Evolution of Complex Organisms


Bob obtained a BSc (1987) in Chemistry from King's College, London University, an MSc (1990) in Biochemistry from University of British Columbia, and a DPhil (1996) in Structural Biology from Oxford University.  During his postdoctoral studies at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (1996-2001), Bob solved the X-ray structure of Arp2/3, an actin-nucleating complex consisting of seven proteins. In 2001, Bob was appointed as a Senior Lecturer at Uppsala University. There, the research group continued to elucidate structures of key actin-regulating proteins. Bob became an EMBO Young Investigator in 2003. Bob joined the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), Singapore as a Principal Investigator in 2005 and became a Research Director in 2011. Bob joined the Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Science (RIIS), Okayama University, Japan in 2018 as a professor. 


Asgard archaea are named after the gods of Norse mythology, including Heimdall, Loki, Odin and Thor. Metagenomics sequencing has revealed that Asgard archaea contain potential homologs to eukaryotic genes. Several of these gene products are involved in forming the cytoskeleton and modifying membranes, hallmarks of eukaryotic cells. Thus, the hypothesis that the source eukaryotic cell arose from the Archaea domain now has potential model organisms to study that may have the pre-eukaryotic properties. However, most Asgard archaea have yet to be imaged or cultivated, bringing in to question whether these archaea exhibit eukaryotic characteristics. Recently, we published the first evidence that the Asgard versions of the actin regulators profilin and gelsolin are functional at the protein level. In eukaryotes, force from directed actin polymerization drives membrane remodelling through filament nucleation and elongation machineries such as formins, which recruit the profilin/actin complex to initiate polymerization. Many of these interactions are regulated by the phospholipid PIP2. We demonstrated that Asgard profilins and gelsolins are true eukaryotic-like proteins being functional in regulating mammalian actin in vitro. We determined their crystal structures in complex with mammalian actin, which verified the conserved actin interactions. Asgard gelsolins and profilins appear to be primitive actin regulators since they do not have all of the eukaryotic properties, for instance, Asgard profilins do not interact with formin polyproline sequences but do interact with phospholipids, features of eukaryotic profilins. Hence, we are generating the first experimental data at the protein level that suggests that eukaryotes may have evolved from the Archaea domain. 

Link to research in Okayama University: