Multivalent biopolymers phase separate into membrane-less organelles (MLOs) which exhibit liquid-like behavior. Here, we explore formation of prototypical MOs from multivalent proteins on various time and length scales and show that the kinetically arrested metastable multi-droplet state is a dynamic outcome of the interplay between two competing processes: a diffusion-limited encounter between proteins, and the exhaustion of available valencies within smaller clusters. Clusters with satisfied valencies cannot coalesce readily, resulting in metastable, long-living droplets. In the regime of dense clusters akin to phase-separation, we observe co-existing assemblies, in contrast to the single, large equilibrium-like cluster. A system-spanning network encompassing all multivalent proteins was only observed at high concentrations and large interaction valencies. In the regime favoring large clusters, we observe a slow-down in the dynamics of the condensed phase, potentially resulting in loss of function. Therefore, metastability could be a hallmark of dynamic functional droplets formed by sticker-spacer proteins.
- Eugene I Shakhnovich
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Rohit V Pappu, Washington University in St Louis, United States
© 2020, Ranganathan & Shakhnovich
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