Modulating Phase Behavior in Fatty Acid-Modified Elastin-like Polypeptides (FAMEs): Insights into the Impact of Lipid Length on Thermodynamics and Kinetics of Phase Separation

Zhe Zhang, Christopher J. Lynch, Ying Huo, Somya Chakraborty, Paul S. Cremer, Davoud Mozhdehi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Although post-translational lipidation is prevalent in eukaryotes, its impact on the liquid-liquid phase separation of disordered proteins is still poorly understood. Here, we examined the thermodynamic phase boundaries and kinetics of aqueous two-phase system (ATPS) formation for a library of elastin-like polypeptides modified with saturated fatty acids of different chain lengths. By systematically altering the physicochemical properties of the attached lipids, we were able to correlate the molecular properties of lipids to changes in the thermodynamic phase boundaries and the kinetic stability of droplets formed by these proteins. We discovered that increasing the chain length lowers the phase separation temperature in a sigmoidal manner due to alterations in the unfavorable interactions between protein and water and changes in the entropy of phase separation. Our kinetic studies unveiled remarkable sensitivity to lipid length, which we propose is due to the temperature-dependent interactions between lipids and the protein. Strikingly, we found that the addition of just a single methylene group is sufficient to allow tuning of these interactions as a function of temperature, with proteins modified with C7-C9 lipids exhibiting non-Arrhenius dependence in their phase separation, a behavior that is absent for both shorter and longer fatty acids. This work advances our theoretical understanding of protein-lipid interactions and opens avenues for the rational design of lipidated proteins in biomedical paradigms, where precise control over the phase separation is pivotal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5383-5392
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 28 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry

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