Dr. Christopher Overall to Present at Global Science Meeting in Vancouver

February 3, 2012

Dr. Christopher Overall

Dr. Christopher Overall

Dr. Christopher Overall will present at two symposia during the upcoming American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting from February 16 to 20, 2012, in Vancouver, BC held at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

He is one of 40 UBC researchers invited to speak during the AAAS Annual Meeting, one of the most widely recognized global science events. See below for details on the symposia and presentations.

Speaking at the AAAS Annual Meeting to present solutions for many of the world’s most vexing problems—in the public spotlight, with 800+ international journalists, among hundreds of attendees and peers from the scientific community—is an exceptional honour for the scientist. Yet, away from the limelight, behind the scenes, another person equally worthy of repute may be found: the scientist/organizer of a symposia. Among many complicated details, the organizer must combine the right elements not only from his or her area of expertise but also that of other, yet related, expertise to deliver a full spectrum of scientific discussion on the topic. By also being the organizer one of the symposia, “Can Proteomics Fill the Gap Between the Genome and Phenotypes?”, Overall has assembled an event worthy not only of the profession but also of the calibre to match that of the exceptional array of speakers and symposia of the AAAS meeting.

Overall is a professor in the Department of Oral Biological & Medical Sciences in the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of British Columbia. He is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Metalloproteinase Proteomics and Systems Biology and a member of the Canadian Proteomics Network, The Canadian Arthritis Network of Centres of Excellence, the UBC Centre for Blood Research, the UBC Prostrate Centre, the UBC Life Sciences Institute, the UBC Centre for Drug Research and Development, the CIHR Group in Matrix Dynamics, the British Columbian Proteomics Network, the Australian Protease Network and External Senior Fellow at the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies (Freiburg, Germany).

With over 9000 citations for his 182 papers (with 6,000 citations since 2000) he is a highly influential scientist in the field. Overall is the pioneer of degradomics—a term he coined for a highly specialized field of biochemistry that uses global approaches to study the makeup of all proteins in a tissue. With six Nature Review papers on this and drug target validation and with numerous protease degradomics approaches published in Nature journals he is a leader in the field and was recently recognized by the International Society of Proteolysis with a Lifetime Achievement Award in October 2010.

Symposium: Can Proteomics Fill the Gap Between the Genome and Phenotypes?

Date and Time: Friday, February 17, 2012, from 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM

Presentation by Overall: Traveling to the Ends of the Proteome World with Terminomics and Degradomics

Lay Synopsis: The Human Genome Project, completed a decade ago, read our genetic code or the message of life. Genes hold the code to make proteins and proteins are make up most of the cell and tissues in organisms. The successor of the Human Genome Project, the Human Proteome Project (HPP), was launched in 2010 at the Annual Human Proteome Organization (HuPO) Meeting in Sydney, Australia. The aim of the HPP is big. An international consortium has been formed called The Human Proteome Organization (HuPO) to identify and understand the function of all proteins in the human body (also known as the ‘proteome’), and to map the machinery of life.

To read this “Book of Life”, HuPO will do it as 24 chapters, one for each of the 22 pairs of chromosomes plus X and Y. At present, we only have a partial understanding of this vast text and its interpretation. By knowing all the words, and their meaning in complete paragraphs and pages, much will be learned about the fundamental ways cells and tissues work. When the writing is garbled, then disease occurs. It is HuPOs aim to read the book and to pinpoint the muddled words and garbled pages.

The techniques used for this include proteomics and informatics. In this way the proteins coded by each of the genes on each chromosome will be methodically identified and their role in cells and tissues deciphered. Each country will tackling one or so chromosomes worth of proteins at a time. Canadian investigator teams have selected chromosomes 6 and 21.

Completing the Human Genome Project led to more questions. A critical one being that with just 20,104 genes, how can there be enough different proteins and functions for life following the one gene one protein assumption? Many other organisms have similar numbers or only slightly fewer genes—so where does the extra information come from that makes humans distinct from worms and fruit flies for example?

The answer to this big question lies in what has become one of the hottest areas of proteomics in the past few years, “modificomics”: That is the study of how different forms of the same protein are produced by splicing and how proteins are modified after being made. These modifications change the chemistry of the basic building blocks of a protein. Other modifications truncate proteins by a little or whole chunks of the protein. These modifications then change the function of each protein, turning some proteins off and others on, turning a go signal to a no-go signal in a protein, moving proteins from one part of the cell to another where they may play different roles. When these changes go wrong diseases such as cancers and arthritis may result. Knowing the genetic sequence alone doesn’t provide this information. We have to know the protein. But how are these modifications coded? Is there a new code of life? Understanding this will go a long way to filling the gap between the genome and proteome; between the cells and whole organisms (also known as phenotypes).

This symposium highlights how information is made in proteins that cannot be (currently) predicted from the genetic code and protein sequences. Is there a new code of life waiting to be discovered?

Scientific Abstract: Traveling to the Ends of the Proteome World with Terminomics and Degradomics

Symposium: The Mouth as a Global Window to Systemic Health

Date and Time: Sunday, February 19, 2012, from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM

Presentation by Overall: Degradomics Unravels Proteolytically Altered Pathways in Controlling Inflammation

Lay Synopsis: Just as a line on a page has a start and an end, so too do proteins have a start and an end point. Called “termini” each end of a protein can have distinct jobs, which are often critical for the function of the whole protein. The job of specialized proteins (known as enzymes called proteases) is to precisely cut proteins. In so doing new protein termini are generated, just like cutting into spaghetti new pieces are made, and often new functions result that rely upon the nature of their new ends. Christopher Overall will speak on how proteases switches protein activity in ways that are as yet invisible in the genetic code. By using new proteomics analyses he has developed we can now travel to the ends of the proteome. Unexpected discoveries have been made using this technique. One of which is what is called “moonlighting proteins”. These are proteins that are found in unexpected places in a cell, or are proteins normally found in the cell that are now found outside a cell. Are they mislocalized or misunderstood? Such proteins can have completely different functions depending on their new homes. This forms yet another way to increase protein diversity in a cell.

Hence the theme for the session is that not all is what it seems in a gene and its protein. Hidden switches, hidden connections and unexpected splicing of genes and so of their proteins, opens up new, non-predicted outcomes for the human proteome.

By considering the unexpected, wrought by splicing of genes and snipping of proteins, protein partners and groups, “modificomics”—tomorrow’s proteomics—brings us closer to understanding human phenotypes and therefore diseases. And with understanding comes new treatments for disease.

Scientific Abstract: Degradomics Unravels Proteolytically Altered Pathways in Controlling Inflammation

UBC welcomes AAAS 2012. Visit the UBC webpage.

UBC media release, February 13, 2012: More than 40 UBC researchers present leading Canadian research at global science conference

The AAAS Annual Meeting takes place at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Visit the AAAS Annual Meeting webpage.

Information About Dr. Christopher Overall

Media Enquiries

Contact Lorraine Chan (604-822-2644) at UBC Public Affairs or Terry Wintonyk (604-827-3335) at UBC Faculty of Dentistry.