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Journal Article

Condensed-phase signaling can expand kinase specificity and respond to macromolecular crowding


Zweckstetter,  M.
Department of NMR Based Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Sang, D., Shu, T., Pantoja, C. F., de Opakua, A. I., Zweckstetter, M., & Holt, L. J. (2022). Condensed-phase signaling can expand kinase specificity and respond to macromolecular crowding. Molecular Cell, 82(19), 3693-3711.e10. doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2022.08.016.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000C-01E4-1
Phase separation can concentrate biomolecules and accelerate reactions. However, the mechanisms and principles connecting this mesoscale organization to signaling dynamics are difficult to dissect because of the pleiotropic effects associated with disrupting endogenous condensates. To address this limitation, we engineered new phosphorylation reactions within synthetic condensates. We generally found increased activity and broadened kinase specificity. Phosphorylation dynamics within condensates were rapid and could drive cell-cycle-dependent localization changes. High client concentration within condensates was important but not the main factor for efficient phosphorylation. Rather, the availability of many excess client-binding sites together with a flexible scaffold was crucial. Phosphorylation within condensates was also modulated by changes in macromolecular crowding. Finally, the phosphorylation of the Alzheimer’s-disease-associated protein Tau by cyclin-dependent kinase 2 was accelerated within condensates. Thus, condensates enable new signaling connections and can create sensors that respond to the biophysical properties of the cytoplasm.