Enzymatic Regulation of Protein-Protein Interactions in Artificial Cells

Thijs W. van Veldhuisen, Wiggert J. Altenburg, Madelief A.M. Verwiel, Lenne J.M. Lemmens, Alexander F. Mason, Maarten Merkx, Luc Brunsveld (Corresponding author), Jan C.M. van Hest (Corresponding author)

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Membraneless organelles are important for spatial organization of proteins and regulation of intracellular processes. Proteins can be recruited to these condensates by specific protein–protein or protein–nucleic acid interactions, which are often regulated by post-translational modifications. However, the mechanisms behind these dynamic, affinity-based protein recruitment events are not well understood. Here, a coacervate system that incorporates the 14-3-3 scaffold protein to study enzymatically regulated recruitment of 14-3-3-binding proteins is presented, which mostly bind in a phosphorylation-dependent manner. Synthetic coacervates are efficiently loaded with 14-3-3, and phosphorylated binding partners, such as the c-Raf pS233/pS259 peptide (c-Raf), show 14-3-3-dependent sequestration with up to 161-fold increase in local concentration. The c-Raf domain is fused to green fluorescent protein (GFP-c-Raf) to demonstrate recruitment of proteins. In situ phosphorylation of GFP-c-Raf by a kinase leads to enzymatically regulated uptake. The introduction of a phosphatase into coacervates preloaded with the phosphorylated 14-3-3-GFP-c-Raf complex results in a significant cargo efflux mediated by dephosphorylation. Finally, the general applicability of this platform to study protein–protein interactions is demonstrated by the phosphorylation-dependent and 14-3-3-mediated active reconstitution of a split-luciferase inside artificial cells. This work presents an approach to study dynamically regulated protein recruitment in condensates, using native interaction domains.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2300947
Number of pages11
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number29
Early online date7 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


  • artificial cells
  • coacervates
  • phosphorylation
  • scaffold proteins
  • synthetic signaling
  • Phosphorylation
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins/genetics
  • 14-3-3 Proteins/metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Artificial Cells


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