Liquid-liquid phase separation of proteins preferentially involves intrinsically disordered proteins or disordered regions. Understanding the solution chemistry of these phase separations is key to learning how to quantify and manipulate systems that involve such processes. Here, we investigate the effect of cyclization on the liquid-liquid phase separation of short polyglycine peptides. We simulated separate aqueous systems of supersaturated cyclic and linear GGGGG and observed spontaneous liquid-liquid phase separation in each of the solutions. The cyclic GGGGG phase separates less robustly than linear GGGGG and has a higher aqueous solubility, even though linear GGGGG has a more favorable single molecule solvation free energy. The versatile and abundant interpeptide contacts formed by the linear GGGGG stabilize the condensed droplet phase, driving the phase separation in this system. In particular, we find that van der Waals close contact interactions are enriched in the droplet phase as opposed to electrostatic interactions. An analysis of the change in backbone conformational entropy that accompanies the phase transition revealed that cyclic peptides lose significantly less entropy in this process as expected. However, we find that the enhanced interaction enthalpy of linear GGGGG in the droplet phase is enough to compensate for a larger decrease in conformational entropy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Materials Chemistry