Many RNA binding proteins, including FUS, contain moderately repetitive, low complexity, intrinsically disordered domains. These sequence motifs have recently been found to underpin reversible liquid: liquid phase separation and gelation of these proteins, permitting them to reversibly transition from a monodispersed state to liquid droplet- or hydrogel-like states. This function allows the proteins to serve as scaffolds for the formation of reversible membraneless intracellular organelles such as nucleoli, stress granules and neuronal transport granules. Using FUS as an example, this review examines the biophysics of this physiological process, and reports on how mutations and changes in post-translational state alter phase behaviour, and lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal lobar degeneration.
Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Arginine methylation; Cation-pi interactions; Frontotemporal dementia; Phase separation; RNA binding proteins.
Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier B.V.