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Chemogenetic Minitool for Dissecting the Roles of Protein Phase Separation

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posted on 2023-07-07, 19:39 authored by Chan-I Chung, Junjiao Yang, Xiaokun Shu
Biomolecular condensate is an emerging structural entity that regulates various cellular processes. Recent studies have discovered the phase-separation (PS) capability of several transcription factors (TFs) including YAP/TAZ upon biological stimuli, which provide new mechanisms of gene regulation. However, it remains mostly unanswered as to whether PS from a diffuse state to a phase-separated state promotes gene transcription. To address this question, we have designed a chemogenetic tool, dubbed SPARK-ON, which manipulates the PS of YAP and TAZ without a biological stimulus, forming condensates that are transcriptionally active, containing the DNA-binding partner TEAD, genomic DNA, transcriptional machinery, and nascent RNA. Most importantly, PS of TAZ increases the transcription of its target genes. Therefore, our data indicate that PS promotes gene transcription of TAZ. SPARK-ON is advantageous to current mutagenesis-based approaches that are often problematic when mutagenesis affects the transcriptional activity of a TF. Furthermore, protein abundance levels also affect gene transcription, but PS depends on protein abundance because PS occurs only when the protein level is above a saturation concentration. SPARK-ON decouples PS from protein abundance levels without introducing mutations and thus will find important applications in understanding the biological roles of PS for many TFs and other biomolecular condensates.