Multiscale simulations of molecular recognition by phase separated MUT-16: A scaffolding protein of Mutator foci

Read the full article See related articles

Listed in

This article is not in any list yet, why not save it to one of your lists.
Log in to save this article


Biomolecular recruitment by phase separated condensates has emerged as a key organising principle of biological processes. One such process is the RNA silencing pathway, which regulates gene expression and genomic defense against foreign nucleic acids. In C. elegans , this pathway involves siRNA amplification at perinuclear germ granules named Mutator foci . The formation of Mutator foci depends on the phase separation of MUT-16, acting as a scaffolding protein to recruit other components of the Mutator complex. Earlier studies have indicated a crucial role for an exoribonuclease, MUT-7, in RNA silencing. The recruitment of MUT-7 to Mutator foci is facilitated by a bridging protein, MUT-8. However, how MUT-8 binds to MUT-16 remains elusive. We resolved the molecular drivers of MUT-16 phase separation and the recruitment of MUT-8 using multi-scale molecular dynamics simulations and in vitro experiments. Residue-level coarse-grained simulations predicted the relative phase separation propensities of MUT-16 disordered regions, which we validated by experiments.

Coarse-grained simulations at residue-level and near atomic-resolution also indicated the essential role of aromatic amino acids (Tyr and Phe) in MUT-16 phase separation. Furthermore, coarse-grained and atomistic simulations of MUT-8 N-terminal prion-like domain with phase separated MUT-16 condensate revealed the importance of cation- π interaction between Tyr residues of MUT-8 and Arg/Lys residues of MUT-16. By re-introducing atomistic detail to condensates from coarse-grained and 350 µs all-atom simulations in explicit solvent on Folding@Home, we demonstrate Arg-Tyr interaction surpasses the strength of Lys-Tyr interactions in the recruitment of MUT-8. The atomistic simulations show that the planar guanidinium group of Arg also engages in sp 2 - π interaction, and hydrogen bonds with the Tyr residues and these additional favorable contacts are missing in the Lys-Tyr interactions. In agreement with simulations, the mutation of seven Arg residues in MUT-16 to Lys and Ala weakens MUT-8 binding in vitro .

Article activity feed