Convergence of Artificial Protein Polymers and Intrinsically Disordered Proteins.
A flurry of research in recent years has revealed the molecular origins of many membraneless organelles to be the liquid phase separation of intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs). Consequently, protein disorder has emerged as an important driver of intracellular compartmentalization by providing specialized microenvironments chemically distinct from the surrounding medium. Though the importance of protein disorder and its relationship to intracellular phase behavior are clear, a detailed understanding of how such phase behavior can be predicted and controlled remains elusive. While research in IDPs has largely focused on the implications of structural disorder on cellular function and disease, another field, that of artificial protein polymers, has focused on the de novo design of protein polymers with controllable material properties. A subset of these polymers, specifically those derived from structural proteins such as elastin and resilin, are also disordered sequences that undergo liquid-liquid phase separation. This phase separation has been used in a variety of biomedical applications, and researchers studying these polymers have developed methods to precisely characterize and tune their phase behavior. Despite their disparate origins, both fields are complementary as they study the phase behavior of intrinsically disordered polypeptides. This Perspective hopes to stimulate collaborative efforts by highlighting the similarities between these two fields and by providing examples of how such collaboration could be mutually beneficial.
Dzuricky, M; Roberts, S; Chilkoti, A
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