2009 Roche Medallist: Bostjan Kobe

Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland

Bostjan Kobe is the ARC Federation Fellow at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, the University of Queensland (UQ). His laboratory focuses on the role of protein structure and interactions in the molecular and cellular functions of these molecules.

Bostjan obtained his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His diploma thesis work included small molecule crystallography, and in the quest to work on structures of larger molecules, he ended up doing his PhD at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, USA. During this project with the Nobel Prize winner Johann Deisenhofer, Bostjan determined one of the first structures of a solenoid protein with structural repeats (ribonuclease inhibitor, a protein with leucine-rich repeats). This PhD project laid the foundation for several research themes that have continued throughout his subsequent work, including the study of protein-protein interactions and solenoid proteins.

After finishing his PhD in 1994, Bostjan arrived in Australia in 1995 to work with Bruce Kemp at St Vincent’s Institute in Melbourne on various aspects of protein regulation, particularly regulation by phosphorylation. The 1997 Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship allowed him to establish an independent group at the Institute. In 2000, he moved to UQ in Brisbane.

Bostjan’s current research continues to investigate general concepts in biology through the use of structural approaches and by focusing on appropriate biological systems. Solenoid proteins are emerging as a protein class with properties intermediate between structured and intrinsically unstructured proteins, well suited to roles in protein-protein interactions. The application of these properties to protein function is being explored in solenoid proteins involved in nucleo-cytoplasmic transport and plant disease resistance. The interaction of linear motifs with proteins is similarly ubiquitous in protein-protein interaction, and the utility of understanding the structural basis of such interactions is exemplified by the development of bioinformatic tools such as Predikin for phosphorylation site prediction. Another approach to closely integrating structural biology with understanding cellular processes has involved the application of high-throughput structural techniques to macrophage cells. It is clear that structural biology can play an important role in our quest to understanding the molecular and cellular functions of cellular components.

Bostjan has recently co-edited the book Structural Proteomics: High-Throughput Methods in the Methods in Molecular Biology series and is an Academic Editor in the open-access journal PLoS One. He is the Treasurer of the Society of Crystallographers in Australia and New Zealand and the Chair of the Queensland Protein Group.