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Biochemistry. 2018 Dec 18;57(50):6822-6826. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.8b01051. Epub 2018 Dec 10.

A Chemical Chaperone Decouples TDP-43 Disordered Domain Phase Separation from Fibrillation.

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Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology , Baylor College of Medicine , One Baylor Plaza, N520.03 , Houston , Texas 77030 , United States.
Department of Genetics , The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center , Houston , Texas 77030 , United States.
ISS, Inc. , 1602 Newton Drive , Champaign , Illinois 61822 , United States.


Ribonucleoprotein (RNP) condensations through liquid-liquid phase separation play vital roles in the dynamic formation-dissolution of stress granules (SGs). These condensations are, however, usually assumed to be linked to pathologic fibrillation. Here, we show that physiologic condensation and pathologic fibrillation of RNPs are independent processes that can be unlinked with the chemical chaperone trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). Using the low-complexity disordered domain of the archetypical SG-protein TDP-43 as a model system, we show that TMAO enhances RNP liquid condensation yet inhibits protein fibrillation. Our results demonstrate effective decoupling of physiologic condensation from pathologic aggregation and suggest that selective targeting of protein fibrillation (without altering condensation) can be employed as a therapeutic strategy for RNP aggregation-associated degenerative disorders.

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