Universiteit Leiden

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Louise Jawerth Lab

Protein condensates and fiber formation

Some species of proteins which can form liquid-like condensates, also exhibit growth into fibers (or fibrils). One particularly interesting set of such proteins are those that are associated with neurodegeneration in which the fiber growth may be related to the pathological fibrils observed in disease.

Although an increasing amount is being discovered about the molecular architecture of these fibers, very little is understood about their higher order architectures as well as the dynamics of their growth.

Protein Fibers Growing (click for video)
Protein Fibers Growing (click for video)

Moreover, they often form in the presence of the droplet-phase of the proteins. This is unusual and unlike other biological fiber formation. The presence of droplets in solution seems to influence the growth of these fibers in interesting ways.

There are numerous conjectures about how droplets can alter fiber formation:  the presence of droplets could act as reservoirs of monomers leading to increased fiber growth, they could compete for monomers from the solution and slow fiber growth, and the eventual dynamical arrest (glass-like aging) of the droplets may sequester monomers completely.

We are using a combination of high resolution imaging, image processing, atomic force microscopy and other techniques to investigate such behaviors directly.  

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