Salt-Dependent Rheology and Surface Tension of Protein Condensates Using Optical Traps. Academic Article uri icon


  • An increasing number of proteins with intrinsically disordered domains have been shown to phase separate in buffer to form liquidlike phases. These protein condensates serve as simple models for the investigation of the more complex membraneless organelles in cells. To understand the function of such proteins in cells, the material properties of the condensates they form are important. However, these material properties are not well understood. Here, we develop a novel method based on optical traps to study the frequency-dependent rheology and the surface tension of P-granule protein PGL-3 condensates as a function of salt concentration. We find that PGL-3 droplets are predominantly viscous but also exhibit elastic properties. As the salt concentration is reduced, their elastic modulus, viscosity, and surface tension increase. Our findings show that salt concentration has a strong influence on the rheology and dynamics of protein condensates suggesting an important role of electrostatic interactions for their material properties.

publication date

  • December 21, 2018