Salt dependent phase behavior of intrinsically disordered proteins from a coarse-grained model with explicit water and ions

A Garaizar and JR Espinosa, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 155, 125103 (2021).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0062687

Multivalent proteins and nucleic acids can self-assemble into biomolecular condensates that contribute to compartmentalize the cell interior. Computer simulations offer a unique view to elucidate the mechanisms and key intermolecular interactions behind the dynamic formation and dissolution of these condensates. In this work, we present a novel approach to include explicit water and salt in sequence- dependent coarse-grained (CG) models for proteins and RNA, enabling the study of biomolecular condensate formation in a salt-dependent manner. Our framework combines a reparameterized version of the HPS protein force field with the monoatomic mW water model and the mW-ion potential for NaCl. We show how our CG model qualitatively captures the experimental radius of the gyration trend of a subset of intrinsically disordered proteins and reproduces the experimental protein concentration and water percentage of the human fused in sarcoma (FUS) low-complexity-domain droplets at physiological salt concentration. Moreover, we perform seeding simulations as a function of salt concentration for two antagonist systems: the engineered peptide PR25 and poly-uridine/poly-arginine mixtures, finding good agreement with their reported in vitro phase behavior with salt concentration in both cases. Taken together, our work represents a step forward towards extending sequence-dependent CG models to include water and salt, and to consider their key role in biomolecular condensate self-assembly.

Return to Publications page