skip to main content


Title: The solid and liquid states of chromatin
Abstract

The review begins with a concise description of the principles of phase separation. This is followed by a comprehensive section on phase separation of chromatin, in which we recount the 60 years history of chromatin aggregation studies, discuss the evidence that chromatin aggregation intrinsically is a physiologically relevant liquid–solid phase separation (LSPS) process driven by chromatin self-interaction, and highlight the recent findings that under specific solution conditions chromatin can undergo liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS) rather than LSPS. In the next section of the review, we discuss how certain chromatin-associated proteins undergo LLPS in vitro and in vivo. Some chromatin-binding proteins undergo LLPS in purified form in near-physiological ionic strength buffers while others will do so only in the presence of DNA, nucleosomes, or chromatin. The final section of the review evaluates the solid and liquid states of chromatin in the nucleus. While chromatin behaves as an immobile solid on the mesoscale, nucleosomes are mobile on the nanoscale. We discuss how this dual nature of chromatin, which fits well the concept of viscoelasticity, contributes to genome structure, emphasizing the dominant role of chromatin self-interaction.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1814012
NSF-PAR ID:
10306998
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Springer Science + Business Media
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Epigenetics & Chromatin
Volume:
14
Issue:
1
ISSN:
1756-8935
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Intrinsically disordered proteins rich in cationic amino acid groups can undergo Liquid-Liquid Phase Separation (LLPS) in the presence of charge-balancing anionic counterparts. Arginine and Lysine are the two most prevalent cationic amino acids in proteins that undergo LLPS, with arginine-rich proteins observed to undergo LLPS more readily than lysine-rich proteins, a feature commonly attributed to arginine’s ability to form stronger cation-π interactions with aromatic groups. Here, we show that arginine’s ability to promote LLPS is independent of the presence of aromatic partners, and that arginine-rich peptides, but not lysine-rich peptides, display re-entrant phase behavior at high salt concentrations. We further demonstrate that the hydrophobicity of arginine is the determining factor giving rise to the reentrant phase behavior and tunable viscoelastic properties of the dense LLPS phase. Controlling arginine-induced reentrant LLPS behavior using temperature and salt concentration opens avenues for the bioengineering of stress-triggered biological phenomena and drug delivery systems.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    The RNA‐binding protein fused in sarcoma (FUS) assembles via liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS) into functional RNA granules and aggregates in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated neuronal inclusions. Several studies have demonstrated that posttranslational modification (PTM) can significantly alter FUS phase separation and aggregation, particularly charge‐altering phosphorylation of the nearly uncharged N‐terminal low complexity domain of FUS (FUS LC). However, the occurrence and impact of N‐terminal acetylation on FUS phase separation remains unexplored, even though N‐terminal acetylation is the most common PTM in mammals and changes the charge at the N‐terminus. First, we find that FUS is predominantly acetylated in two human cell types and stress conditions. Next, we show that recombinant FUS LC can be acetylated when co‐expressed with the NatA complex inEscherichia coli. Using NMR spectroscopy, we find that N‐terminal acetylated FUS LC (FUS LC Nt‐Ac) does not notably alter monomeric FUS LC structure or motions. Despite no difference in structure, Nt‐Ac‐FUS LC phase separates more avidly than unmodified FUS LC. More importantly, N‐terminal acetylation of FUS LC reduces aggregation. Our findings highlight the importance of N‐terminal acetylation of proteins that undergo physiological LLPS and pathological aggregation.

     
    more » « less
  3. A properly organized subcellular composition is essential to cell function. The canonical organizing principle within eukaryotic cells involves membrane-bound organelles; yet, such structures do not fully explain cellular complexity. Furthermore, discrete non-membrane-bound structures have been known for over a century. Liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS) has emerged as a ubiquitous mode of cellular organization without the need for formal lipid membranes, with an ever-expanding and diverse list of cellular functions that appear to be regulated by this process. In comparison to traditional organelles, LLPS can occur across wider spatial and temporal scales and involves more distinct protein and RNA complexes. In this review, we discuss the impacts of LLPS on the organization of stem cells and their function during development. Specifically, the roles of LLPS in developmental signaling pathways, chromatin organization, and gene expression will be detailed, as well as its impacts on essential processes of asymmetric cell division. We will also discuss how the dynamic and regulated nature of LLPS may afford stem cells an adaptable mode of organization throughout the developmental time to control cell fate. Finally, we will discuss how aberrant LLPS in these processes may contribute to developmental defects and disease.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Compartments are a fundamental feature of life, based variously on lipid membranes, protein shells, or biopolymer phase separation. Here, this combines self‐assembling bacterial microcompartment (BMC) shell proteins and liquid‐liquid phase separation (LLPS) to develop new forms of compartmentalization. It is found that BMC shell proteins assemble at the liquid‐liquid interfaces between either 1) the dextran‐rich droplets and PEG‐rich continuous phase of a poly(ethyleneglycol)(PEG)/dextran aqueous two‐phase system, or 2) the polypeptide‐rich coacervate droplets and continuous dilute phase of a polylysine/polyaspartate complex coacervate system. Interfacial protein assemblies in the coacervate system are sensitive to the ratio of cationic to anionic polypeptides, consistent with electrostatically‐driven assembly. In both systems, interfacial protein assembly competes with aggregation, with protein concentration and polycation availability impacting coating. These two LLPS systems are then combined to form a three‐phase system wherein coacervate droplets are contained within dextran‐rich phase droplets. Interfacial localization of BMC hexameric shell proteins is tunable in a three‐phase system by changing the polyelectrolyte charge ratio. The tens‐of‐micron scale BMC shell protein‐coated droplets introduced here can accommodate bioactive cargo such as enzymes or RNA and represent a new synthetic cell strategy for organizing biomimetic functionality.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Liquid‐liquid phase separation (LLPS) has recently emerged as a possible mechanism that enables ubiquitin‐binding shuttle proteins to facilitate the degradation of ubiquitinated substrates via distinct protein quality control (PQC) pathways. Shuttle protein LLPS is modulated by multivalent interactions among their various domains as well as heterotypic interactions with polyubiquitin chains. Here, the properties of three different shuttle proteins (hHR23B, p62, and UBQLN2) are closely examined, unifying principles for the molecular determinants of their LLPS are identified, and how LLPS is connected to their functions is discussed. Evidence supporting LLPS of other shuttle proteins is also found. In this review, it is proposed that shuttle protein LLPS leads to spatiotemporal regulation of PQC activities by mediating the recruitment of PQC machinery (including proteasomes or autophagic components) to biomolecular condensates, assembly/disassembly of condensates, selective enrichment of client proteins, and extraction of ubiquitinated proteins from condensates in cells.

     
    more » « less