The Solvent Side of Proteinaceous Membrane-less Organelles in Light of Aqueous Two-phase Systems

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Phase separation, Aqueous two-phase system, Proteinaceous membrane-less organelles, Solvent properties, Intrinsically disordered protein, Partitioning

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Water represents a common denominator for liquid-liquid phase transitions leading to the formation of the polymer-based aqueous two-phase systems (ATPSs) and a set of the proteinaceous membrane-less organelles (PMLOs). ATPSs have a broad range of biotechnological applications, whereas PMLOs play a number of crucial roles in cellular compartmentalization and often represent a cellular response to the stress. Since ATPSs and PMLOs contain high concentrations of polymers (such as polyethylene glycol (PEG), polypropylene glycol (PPG), Ucon, and polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), Dextran, or Ficoll) or biopolymers (peptides, proteins and nucleic acids), it is expected that the separated phases of these systems are characterized by the noticeable changes in the solvent properties of water. These changes in solvent properties can drive partitioning of various compounds (proteins, nucleic acids, organic low-molecular weight molecules, metal ions, etc.) between the phases of ATPSs or between the PMLOs and their surroundings. Although there is a sizable literature on the properties of the ATPS phases, much less is currently known about PMLOs. In this perspective article, we first represent liquid-liquid phase transitions in water, discuss different types of biphasic (or multiphasic) systems in water, and introduce various PMLOs and some of their properties. Then, some basic characteristics of polymer-based ATPSs are presented, with the major focus being on the current understanding of various properties of ATPS phases and solvent properties of water inside them. Finally, similarities and differences between the polymer-based ATPSs and biological PMLOs are discussed.

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International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, v. 117, p. 1224-1251