A solid beta-sheet structure is formed at the surface of FUS droplets during aging

Nat Chem Biol. 2024 Mar 11. doi: 10.1038/s41589-024-01573-w. Online ahead of print.


Phase transitions are important to understand cell dynamics, and the maturation of liquid droplets is relevant to neurodegenerative disorders. We combined NMR and Raman spectroscopies with microscopy to follow, over a period of days to months, droplet maturation of the protein fused in sarcoma (FUS). Our study reveals that the surface of the droplets plays a critical role in this process, while RNA binding prevents it. The maturation kinetics are faster in an agarose-stabilized biphasic sample compared with a monophasic condensed sample, owing to the larger surface-to-volume ratio. In addition, Raman spectroscopy reports structural differences upon maturation between the inside and the surface of droplets, which is comprised of β-sheet content, as revealed by solid-state NMR. In agreement with these observations, a solid crust-like shell is observed at the surface using microaspiration. Ultimately, matured droplets were converted into fibrils involving the prion-like domain as well as the first RGG motif.