Several biological mechanisms involve proteins or proteinaceous components that are intrinsically disordered. A case in point pertains to the nuclear pore complex (NPC), which regulates molecular transport between the nucleus and the cytoplasm. NPC functionality is dependent on unfolded domains rich in Phe-Gly (FG) repeats (i.e., FG-domains) that collectively act to promote or hinder cargo translocation. To a large extent, our understanding of FG-domain behavior is limited to in vitro investigations given the difficulty to resolve them directly in the NPC. Nevertheless, recent findings indicate a collective convergence towards rationalizing FG-domain function. This review aims to glean further insight into this fascinating problem by taking an objective look at the boundary conditions and contextual details underpinning FG-domain behavior in the NPC. Here, we treat the FG-domains as being commensurate with polymeric chains to address ambiguities such as for instance, how FG-domains tethered to the central channel of the NPC would behave differently as compared with their free-floating counterparts in solution. By bringing such fundamental questions to the fore, this review seeks to illuminate the importance of how such parameters can hold influence over the structure-function relation of intrinsically disordered proteins in the NPC and beyond.
©2010 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York