Previously uncharacterized interactions between the folded and intrinsically disordered domains impart asymmetric effects on UBQLN2 phase separation

Tongyin Zheng, Sarasi K.K. Galagedera, Carlos A. Castañeda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Shuttle protein UBQLN2 functions in protein quality control (PQC) by binding to proteasomal receptors and ubiquitinated substrates via its N-terminal ubiquitin-like (UBL) and C-terminal ubiquitin-associated (UBA) domains, respectively. Between these two folded domains are low-complexity STI1-I and STI1-II regions, connected by disordered linkers. The STI1 regions bind other components, such as HSP70, that are important to the PQC functions of UBQLN2. We recently determined that the STI1-II region enables UBQLN2 to undergo liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS) to form liquid droplets in vitro and biomolecular condensates in cells. However, how the interplay between the folded (UBL/UBA) domains and the intrinsically disordered regions mediates phase separation is largely unknown. Using engineered domain deletion constructs, we found that removing the UBA domain inhibits UBQLN2 LLPS while removing the UBL domain enhances LLPS, suggesting that UBA and UBL domains contribute asymmetrically in modulating UBQLN2 LLPS. To explain these differential effects, we interrogated the interactions that involve the UBA and UBL domains across the entire UBQLN2 molecule using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. To our surprise, aside from well-studied canonical UBL:UBA interactions, there also exist moderate interactions between the UBL and several disordered regions, including STI1-I and residues 555–570, the latter of which is a known contributor to UBQLN2 LLPS. Our findings are essential for the understanding of both the molecular driving forces of UBQLN2 LLPS and the effects of ligand binding to UBL, UBA, or disordered regions on the phase behavior and physiological functions of UBQLN2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1467-1481
Number of pages15
JournalProtein Science
Volume30
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • NMR spectroscopy
  • STI1 domain
  • folded domains
  • intrinsically disordered regions
  • liquid–liquid phase separation
  • self-association
  • ubiquilin-2
  • ubiquitin-associated domain
  • ubiquitin-like domain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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