A predictive coarse-grained model for position-specific effects of post-translational modifications. Academic Article uri icon


  • Biomolecules undergo liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS), resulting in the formation of multicomponent protein-RNA membraneless organelles in cells. However, the physiological and pathological role of post-translational modifications (PTMs) on the biophysics of phase behavior is only beginning to be probed. To study the effect of PTMs on LLPS insilico, we extend our transferable coarse-grained model of intrinsically disordered proteins to include phosphorylated and acetylated amino acids. Using the parameters for modified amino acids available for fixed-charge atomistic force fields, we parameterize the size and atomistic hydropathy of the coarse-grained-modified amino acid beads and, hence, the interactions between the modified and natural amino acids. We then elucidate how the number and position of phosphorylated and acetylated residues alter the protein's single-chain compactness and its propensity to phase separate. We show that both the number and the position of phosphorylated threonines/serines or acetylated lysines can serve as a molecular on/off switch for phase separation in the well-studied disordered regions of Fused in Sarcoma (FUS) and DDX3X, respectively. We also compare modified residues to their commonly used PTM mimics for their impact on chain properties. Importantly, we show that the model can predict and capture experimentally measured differences in the phase behavior for position-specific modifications, showing that the position of modifications can dictate phase separation. In sum, this model will be useful for studying LLPS of post-translationally modified intrinsically disordered proteins and predicting how modifications control phase behavior with position-specific resolution.

published proceedings

  • Biophys J

altmetric score

  • 13.35

author list (cited authors)

  • Perdikari, T. M., Jovic, N., Dignon, G. L., Kim, Y. C., Fawzi, N. L., & Mittal, J.

citation count

  • 30

complete list of authors

  • Perdikari, Theodora Myrto||Jovic, Nina||Dignon, Gregory L||Kim, Young C||Fawzi, Nicolas L||Mittal, Jeetain

publication date

  • April 2021