Glycine-Rich Peptides from FUS Have an Intrinsic Ability to Self-Assemble into Fibers and Networked Fibrils

Biochemistry. 2021 Nov 2;60(43):3213-3222. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.1c00501. Epub 2021 Oct 14.


Glycine-rich regions feature prominently in intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) of proteins that drive phase separation and the regulated formation of membraneless biomolecular condensates. Interestingly, the Gly-rich IDRs seldom feature poly-Gly tracts. The protein fused in sarcoma (FUS) is an exception. This protein includes two 10-residue poly-Gly tracts within the prion-like domain (PLD) and at the interface between the PLD and the RNA binding domain. Poly-Gly tracts are known to be highly insoluble, being potent drivers of self-assembly into solid-like fibrils. Given that the internal concentrations of FUS and FUS-like molecules cross the high micromolar and even millimolar range within condensates, we reasoned that the intrinsic insolubility of poly-Gly tracts might be germane to emergent fluid-to-solid transitions within condensates. To assess this possibility, we characterized the concentration-dependent self-assembly for three non-overlapping 25-residue Gly-rich peptides derived from FUS. Two of the three peptides feature 10-residue poly-Gly tracts. These peptides form either long fibrils based on twisted ribbon-like structures or self-supporting gels based on physical cross-links of fibrils. Conversely, the peptide with similar Gly contents but lacking a poly-Gly tract does not form fibrils or gels. Instead, it remains soluble across a wide range of concentrations. Our findings highlight the ability of poly-Gly tracts within IDRs that drive phase separation to undergo self-assembly. We propose that these tracts are likely to contribute to nucleation of fibrillar solids within dense condensates formed by FUS.