Understanding the Relationship Between Protein Sequence Features and Liquid-liquid Phase Separation

By Ramiz Somjee

Liquid-liquid phase separation is the demixing process that leads to the formation of non-membrane bound cellular compartments termed membrane less organelle. Each membrane less organelle concentrates unique biomolecules to facilitate particular biological processes. The nucleolus, for example, facilitates the assembly of pre-ribasomal particles.

Phase separation occurs because proteins within the separated dense phase interact favorably with each other and are multivalent. Thus, a protein’s phase separation propensity is tied to its ability to undergo these multivalent interactions.

 I investigate how a protein’s sequence features code for multivalency and enable phase separation using a combination of computational and experimental tools. So far, I have established how the presence of charged tracts within non-folded protein regions might mediate phase separation.

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