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Intrinsically Disordered Proteins, Viruses, Liquid Condensates, Phase Separations and Transitions, Membrane-less Organelles, Virus–host Cell Interactions

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Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) are unable to adopt a unique 3D structure under physiological conditions and thus exist as highly dynamic conformational ensembles. IDPs are ubiquitous and widely spread in the protein realm. In the last decade, compelling experimental evidence has been gathered, pointing to the ability of IDPs and intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) to undergo liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS), a phenomenon driving the formation of membrane-less organelles (MLOs). These biological condensates play a critical role in the spatio-temporal organization of the cell, where they exert a multitude of key biological functions, ranging from transcriptional regulation and silencing to control of signal transduction networks. After introducing IDPs and LLPS, we herein survey available data on LLPS by IDPs/IDRs of viral origin and discuss their functional implications. We distinguish LLPS associated with viral replication and trafficking of viral components, from the LLPS-mediated interference of viruses with host cell functions. We discuss emerging evidence on the ability of plant virus proteins to interfere with the regulation of MLOs of the host and propose that bacteriophages can interfere with bacterial LLPS, as well. We conclude by discussing how LLPS could be targeted to treat phase separation-associated diseases, including viral infections.

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International Journal of Molecular Sciences, v. 21, issue 23, art. 9045