Lysine/RNA-interactions drive and regulate biomolecular condensation

Nat Commun. 2019 Jul 2;10(1):2909. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-10792-y.


Cells form and use biomolecular condensates to execute biochemical reactions. The molecular properties of non-membrane-bound condensates are directly connected to the amino acid content of disordered protein regions. Lysine plays an important role in cellular function, but little is known about its role in biomolecular condensation. Here we show that protein disorder is abundant in protein/RNA granules and lysine is enriched in disordered regions of proteins in P-bodies compared to the entire human disordered proteome. Lysine-rich polypeptides phase separate into lysine/RNA-coacervates that are more dynamic and differ at the molecular level from arginine/RNA-coacervates. Consistent with the ability of lysine to drive phase separation, lysine-rich variants of the Alzheimer's disease-linked protein tau undergo coacervation with RNA in vitro and bind to stress granules in cells. Acetylation of lysine reverses liquid-liquid phase separation and reduces colocalization of tau with stress granules. Our study establishes lysine as an important regulator of cellular condensation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / genetics
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lysine / chemistry
  • Lysine / genetics
  • Lysine / metabolism*
  • RNA / chemistry*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • tau Proteins / chemistry*
  • tau Proteins / genetics
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • tau Proteins
  • RNA
  • Lysine