Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) of proteins is involved in a growing number of cellular processes. Most proteins with LLPS harbor intrinsically disordered regions (IDR), which serve as a guideline to search for cellular proteins that potentially phase separate. Herein, we reveal that oligomerization lowers the barriers for LLPS and could act as a general mechanism to enhance LLPS of proteins domains independent of IDR. Using TDP43 as a model system, we found that deleting its IDR resulted in LLPS that was dependent on the oligomerization of the N-terminal domain (NTD). Replacing TDP43′s NTD with other oligomerization domains enhanced the LLPS proportionately to the state of oligomerization. In addition to TDP43, fusing NTD to other globular proteins without known LLPS behavior also drove their phase separation in a manner dependent on oligomerization. Finally, we demonstrate that heterooligomers composed of NTD-fused proteins can be driven into droplets through NTD interactions. Our results potentiate a new paradigm for using oligomerization domains as a signature to systematically identify cellular proteins with LLPS behavior, thus broadening the scope of this exciting research field.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Structural Biology
- Molecular Biology