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Phase Transition of RNA-protein Complexes into Ordered Hollow Condensates

By Ibraheem Alshareedah, Mahdi Muhammad Moosa, Muralikrishna Raju, Davit A Potoyan, Priya R Banerjee

Posted 12 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.10.902353

Liquid-liquid phase separation of multivalent intrinsically disordered protein-RNA complexes is ubiquitous in both natural and biomimetic systems. So far, isotropic liquid droplets are the most commonly observed topology of RNA-protein condensates in experiments and simulations. Here, by systematically studying the phase behavior of RNA-protein complexes across varied mixture compositions, we report a hollow vesicle-like condensate phase of nucleoprotein assemblies that is distinct from RNA-protein droplets. We show that these vesicular condensates are stable at specific mixture compositions and concentration regimes within the phase diagram and are formed through the phase separation of anisotropic protein-RNA complexes. Similar to membranes composed of amphiphilic lipids, these nucleoprotein-RNA vesicular membranes exhibit local ordering, size-dependent permeability, and selective encapsulation capacity without sacrificing their dynamic formation and dissolution in response to physicochemical stimuli. Our findings suggest that protein-RNA complexes can robustly create lipid-free vesicle-like enclosures by phase separation. Significance statement Vesicular assemblies play crucial roles in subcellular organization as well as in biotechnological applications. Classically, the ability to form such assemblies were primarily assigned to lipids and lipid-like amphiphilic molecules. Here, we show that disordered RNA-protein complexes can form vesicle-like ordered assemblies at disproportionate mixture compositions. We also show that the ability to form vesicular assemblies is generic to multi-component systems where phase separation is driven by heterotypic interactions. We speculate that such vesicular assemblies play crucial roles in the formation of dynamic multi-layered subcellular membrane-less organelles and can be utilized to fabricate novel stimuli-responsive microscale systems.

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