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  1. Abstract

    We present improvements to thehydropathyscale (HPS) coarse‐grained (CG) model for simulating sequence‐specific behavior of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs), including their liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS). The previous model based on an atomistic hydropathy scale by Kapcha and Rossky (KR scale) is not able to capture some well‐known LLPS trends such as reduced phase separation propensity upon mutations (R‐to‐K and Y‐to‐F). Here, we propose to use the Urry hydropathy scale instead, which was derived from the inverse temperature transitions in a model polypeptide with guest residues X. We introduce two free parameters to shift (Δ) and scale (µ) the overall interaction strengths for the new model (HPS‐Urry) and use the experimental radius of gyration for a diverse group of IDPs to find their optimal values. Interestingly, many possible (Δ,µ) combinations can be used for typical IDPs, but the phase behavior of a low‐complexity (LC) sequence FUS is only well described by one of these models, which highlights the need for a careful validation strategy based on multiple proteins. The CG HPS‐Urry model should enable accurate simulations of protein LLPS and provide a microscopically detailed view of molecular interactions.

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    Abstract Ribonucleoprotein (RNP) granules are membraneless organelles (MLOs), which majorly consist of RNA and RNA-binding proteins and are formed via liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS). Experimental studies investigating the drivers of LLPS have shown that intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) and nucleic acids like RNA and other polynucleotides play a key role in modulating protein phase separation. There is currently a dearth of modelling techniques which allow one to delve deeper into how polynucleotides play the role of a modulator/promoter of LLPS in cells using computational methods. Here, we present a coarse-grained polynucleotide model developed to fill this gap, which together with our recently developed HPS model for protein LLPS, allows us to capture the factors driving protein-polynucleotide phase separation. We explore the capabilities of the modelling framework with the LAF-1 RGG system which has been well studied in experiments and also with the HPS model previously. Further taking advantage of the fact that the HPS model maintains sequence specificity we explore the role of charge patterning on controlling polynucleotide incorporation into condensates. With increased charge patterning we observe formation of structured or patterned condensates which suggests the possible roles of polynucleotides in not only shifting the phase boundaries but also introducing microscopic organization in MLOs. 
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