Nicholas Attila Kovacs

Georgia Institute of Technology, IBB 1203

B.S., Michigan State University, 2012 Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology, 2018

Research Interests: 

Nicholas is interested in the structural evolution of ribosomal proteins. Nicholas’ structure-based approaches have shown that segments of ribosomal proteins reveal the history of protein folding which stretches back since the origin of life. The data support a model in which (i) short, random coil polypeptides accreted onto the surface of the ribosome, and (ii) lengthened over time and coalesced into β-structures. (iii) These β-structures then collapsed, primarily into β-domains. (iv) Domains accumulated and gained complex super-secondary structures composed of both α-helix and β-strands. Life then diversified into its 3 domains and ribosomal proteins accrued elaborations on their structures. (v) In Archaea and Eukarya, insertions in ribosomal proteins gave rise to internal loop protrusions from their globular domains composed of unstructured segments as well as α-helices which buried into ribosomal RNA structure and made contacts with other ribosomal proteins. (vi) In Eukarya, α-helical extensions on the termini of ribosomal proteins gave rise to intricate ribosomal protein-ribosomal protein interactions on the surface of the ribosome.

Selected publications: 

Kovacs, N. A., Penev, P. I., Venapally, A., Petrov, A. S., Williams, L. D. “Circular Permutation Obscures the Universality of a Ribosomal Protein”, J. Mol. Evol. 86, pgs 581-592 (2018)

Bernier, C.R., Petrov, A. S., Kovacs, N. A., Penev, P. I., Williams, L. D. “Translation: The Universal Structural Core of Life”, Mol. Biol. Evol. 35, pgs 2065-2076 (2018)

Gómez Ramos, L. M., Degtyareva, N. N., Kovacs, N. A., Holguin, S. Y., Jiang, L., Petrov, A. S., Biesiada M., Hu, M. Y., Purzycka, K. J., Arya, D. P., Williams, L. D. “Eukaryotic Ribosomal Expansion Segments as Antimicrobial Targets”, Biochemistry 56, pgs 5288-5299 (2017)

Kovacs, N.A., Petrov, A.S., Lanier, K.A., and Williams, L.D. “Frozen in Time: The History of Proteins”, Mol. Biol. Evol. 34, pgs 1252-1260 (2017)

Gómez Ramos, L.M., Smeekens, J.M., Kovacs, N.A., Bowman, J.C., Wartell, R.M., Wu, R., and Williams, L.D. “Yeast rRNA Expansion Segments: Folding and Function”, J. Mol. Biol. 428, pgs 4048-4059 (2016)

Petrov, A.S., Gulen, B., Norris, A.M., Kovacs, N.A., Bernier, C.R., Lanier, K.A., Fox, G.E., Harvey, S.C., Wartell, R.M., Hud, N.V., and Williams, L.D. “History of the Ribosome and the Origin of Translation”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 112, pgs 15396-15401 (2015)

Petrov, A.S., Bernier, C.R., Hsiao, C., Norris, A.M., Kovacs, N.A., Waterbury, C.C., Stepanov, V.G., Harvey, S.C., Fox, G.E., Wartell, R.M., Hud, N.V., and Williams, L.D. “Evolution of the Ribosome at Atomic Resolution”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 111, pgs 10251-10256 (2014)