Interplay between intrinsically disordered proteins inside membraneless protein liquid droplets†
Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) in cells phase separate to form diverse membraneless organelles, which have condensed liquid droplet-like properties and often contain multiple IDPs. However, how potential interactions between different IDPs affect the dynamic behavior of these protein droplets is largely unknown. Here, we develop a rapid IDP clustering system to generate protein droplets with varied residue compositions and examine diverse interacting IDPs inside droplets. Three different IDP droplets actively recruited other diverse IDPs inside droplets with extremely varied enrichment (inside/outside) degrees (over 100-fold variation) under highly crowded conditions. The recruited IDPs were mostly mobile even inside highly immobile droplets. Among the five tested IDPs, the disordered region of Ddx4 helicase with its unique multiple charged residue blocks was noticeably influenced by droplet mobility. We also discovered that droplets of different IDPs could rapidly fuse to each other. Interestingly, some droplets were heterogeneously fused with segregated subcompartments, and this segregation was enhanced by droplet maturation and was more apparent for specific IDP pairs, in which the polar and charged residue compositions are highly different. The present study not only reports multiple peculiar behaviors of interacting IDP pairs inside droplets but also provides valuable information on generating membraneless organelle models with controllable droplet properties.