Surfactants or scaffolds? RNAs of different lengths exhibit heterogeneous distributions and play diverse roles in RNA-protein condensates
Ignacio Sanchez-Burgos, Lara Herriott, Rosana Collepardo-Guevara, Jorge R. Espinosa
Biomolecular condensates, thought to form via liquid–liquid phase separation of intracellular mixtures, are multicomponent systems that can include diverse types of proteins and RNAs. RNA is a critical modulator of RNA-protein condensate stability, as it induces an RNA-concentration dependent reentrant phase transition—increasing stability at low RNA concentrations and decreasing it at high concentrations. Beyond concentration, RNAs inside condensates can be heterogeneous in length, sequence,
... d structure. Here, we use multiscale simulations to understanding how different RNA parameters interact with one another to modulate the properties of RNA-protein condensates. To do so, we perform residue/nucleotide-resolution coarse-grained Molecular Dynamics simulations of multicomponent RNA-protein condensates containing RNAs of different lengths and concentrations, and either FUS or PR25proteins. Our simulations reveal that RNA length regulates the reentrant phase behaviour of RNA-protein condensates: increasing RNA length sensitively rises the maximum value that the critical temperature of the mixture reaches, and the maximum concentration of RNA that the condensate can incorporate before beginning to become unstable. Strikingly, RNA of different lengths are organised heterogeneously inside condensates, which allows them to enhance condensate stability via two distinct mechanisms: shorter RNA chains accumulate at the condensate's surface acting as natural biomolecular surfactants, whilst longer RNA chains concentrate inside the core to saturate their bonds and enhance the density of molecular connections in the condensate. Using a patchy particle model, we demonstrate that the combined impact of RNA length and concentration on condensate properties is dictated by the valency, binding affinity, and polymer length of the various biomolecules involved. Our results postulate that diversity on RNA parameters within condensates allows RNAs to increase condensate stability by fulfilling two different criteria: maximizing enthalpic gain and minimizing interfacial free energy; hence, RNA diversity should be considered when assessing the impact of RNA on biomolecular condensates regulation.