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  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.

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  2. Abstract

    The liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS) of Tau has been postulated to play a role in modulating the aggregation property of Tau, a process known to be critically associated with the pathology of a broad range of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's Disease. Taucan undergo LLPS by homotypic interaction through self‐coacervation (SC) or by heterotypic association through complex‐coacervation (CC) between Tau and binding partners such as RNA. What is unclear is in what way the formation mechanisms for self and complex coacervation of Tau are similar or different, and the addition of a binding partner to Tau alters the properties of LLPS and Tau. A combination ofin vitroexperimental and computational study reveals that the primary driving force for both Tau CC and SC is electrostatic interactions between Tau‐RNA or Tau‐Tau macromolecules. The liquid condensates formed by the complex coacervation of Tau and RNA have distinctly higher micro‐viscosity and greater thermal stability than that formed by the SC of Tau. Our study shows that subtle changes in solution conditions, including molecular crowding and the presence of binding partners, can lead to the formation of different types of Tau condensates with distinct micro‐viscosity that can coexist as persistent and immiscible entities in solution. We speculate that the formation, rheological properties and stability of Tau droplets can be readily tuned by cellular factors, and that liquid condensation of Tau can alter the conformational equilibrium of Tau.

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  3. The identification of catalytic RNAs is typically achieved through primarily experimental means. However, only a small fraction of sequence space can be analyzed even with high-throughput techniques. Methods to extrapolate from a limited data set to predict additional ribozyme sequences, particularly in a human-interpretable fashion, could be useful both for designing new functional RNAs and for generating greater understanding about a ribozyme fitness landscape. Using information theory, we express the effects of epistasis (i.e., deviations from additivity) on a ribozyme. This representation was incorporated into a simple model of the epistatic fitness landscape, which identified potentially exploitable combinations of mutations. We used this model to theoretically predict mutants of high activity for a self-aminoacylating ribozyme, identifying potentially active triple and quadruple mutants beyond the experimental data set of single and double mutants. The predictions were validated experimentally, with nine out of nine sequences being accurately predicted to have high activity. This set of sequences included mutants that form a previously unknown evolutionary ‘bridge’ between two ribozyme families that share a common motif. Individual steps in the method could be examined, understood, and guided by a human, combining interpretability and performance in a simple model to predict ribozyme sequences by extrapolation.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 14, 2024
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 2, 2024