A predictive coarse-grained model for position-specific effects of post-translational modifications on disordered protein phase separation Institutional Repository Document uri icon


  • AbstractBiomolecules 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 in silico, 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 forcefields, 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 proteins 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 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.Statement of SignificancePost-translational modifications are important regulators of liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) which drives the formation of biomolecular condensates. Theoretical methods can be used to characterize the biophysical properties of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs). Our recent framework for molecular simulations using a C-centered coarse-grained model can predict the effect of various perturbations such as mutations (Dignon et al. PloS Comput. Biol, 2018) and temperature (Dignon et al, ACS Cent. Sci., 2019) on LLPS. Here, we expand this framework to incorporate modified residues like phosphothreonine, phosphoserine and acetylysine. This model will prove useful for simulating the phase separation of post-translationally modified IDPs and predicting how position-specific modifications can control phase behavior across the large family of proteins known to be phosphorylated and acetylated.

altmetric score

  • 7.8

author list (cited authors)

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

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Perdikari, TM||Jovic, N||Dignon, GL||Kim, YC||Fawzi, NL||Mittal, J

Book Title

  • bioRxiv

publication date

  • June 2020