Short disordered termini and proline-rich domain are major regulators of UBQLN1/2/4 phase separation

Thuy P. Dao, Anitha Rajendran, Sarasi K.K. Galagedera, William Haws, Carlos A. Castañeda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Highly homologous ubiquitin-binding shuttle proteins UBQLN1, UBQLN2, and UBQLN4 differ in both their specific protein quality control functions and their propensities to localize to stress-induced condensates, cellular aggregates, and aggresomes. We previously showed that UBQLN2 phase separates in vitro, and that the phase separation propensities of UBQLN2 deletion constructs correlate with their ability to form condensates in cells. Here, we demonstrated that full-length UBQLN1, UBQLN2, and UBQLN4 exhibit distinct phase behaviors in vitro. Strikingly, UBQLN4 phase separates at a much lower saturation concentration than UBQLN1. However, neither UBQLN1 nor UBQLN4 phase separates with a strong temperature dependence, unlike UBQLN2. We determined that the temperature-dependent phase behavior of UBQLN2 stems from its unique proline-rich region, which is absent in the other UBQLNs. We found that the short N-terminal disordered regions of UBQLN1, UBQLN2, and UBQLN4 inhibit UBQLN phase separation via electrostatics interactions. Charge variants of the N-terminal regions exhibit altered phase behaviors. Consistent with the sensitivity of UBQLN phase separation to the composition of the N-terminal regions, epitope tags placed on the N-termini of the UBQLNs tune phase separation. Overall, our in vitro results have important implications for studies of UBQLNs in cells, including the identification of phase separation as a potential mechanism to distinguish the cellular roles of UBQLNs and the need to apply caution when using epitope tags to prevent experimental artifacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBiophysical Journal
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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