Lipid droplets as substrates for protein phase separation

Advika Kamatar, Jack P.K. Bravo, Feng Yuan, Liping Wang, Eileen M. Lafer, David W. Taylor, Jeanne C. Stachowiak, Sapun H. Parekh

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Membrane-associated protein phase separation plays critical roles in cell biology, driving essential cellular phenomena from immune signaling to membrane traffic. Importantly, by reducing dimensionality from three to two dimensions, lipid bilayers can nucleate phase separation at far lower concentrations compared with those required for phase separation in solution. How might other intracellular lipid substrates, such as lipid droplets, contribute to nucleation of phase separation? Distinct from bilayer membranes, lipid droplets consist of a phospholipid monolayer surrounding a core of neutral lipids, and they are energy storage organelles that protect cells from lipotoxicity and oxidative stress. Here, we show that intrinsically disordered proteins can undergo phase separation on the surface of synthetic and cell-derived lipid droplets. Specifically, we find that the model disordered domains FUS LC and LAF-1 RGG separate into protein-rich and protein-depleted phases on the surfaces of lipid droplets. Owing to the hydrophobic nature of interactions between FUS LC proteins, increasing ionic strength drives an increase in its phase separation on droplet surfaces. The opposite is true for LAF-1 RGG, owing to the electrostatic nature of its interprotein interactions. In both cases, protein-rich phases on the surfaces of synthetic and cell-derived lipid droplets demonstrate molecular mobility indicative of a liquid-like state. Our results show that lipid droplets can nucleate protein condensates, suggesting that protein phase separation could be key in organizing biological processes involving lipid droplets.

Idioma originalEnglish (US)
Páginas (desde-hasta)1494-1507
Número de páginas14
PublicaciónBiophysical Journal
EstadoPublished - jun 4 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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