Design of intrinsically disordered proteins that undergo phase transitions with lower critical solution temperatures

Xiangze Zeng, Chengwen Liu, Martin J. Fossat, Pengyu Ren, Ashutosh Chilkoti, Rohit V. Pappu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Many naturally occurring elastomers are intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) built up of repeating units, and they can demonstrate two types of thermoresponsive phase behavior. Systems characterized by lower critical solution temperatures (LCSTs) undergo phase separation above the LCST, whereas systems characterized by upper critical solution temperatures (UCSTs) undergo phase separation below the UCST. There is congruence between thermoresponsive coil-globule transitions and phase behavior, whereby the theta temperatures above or below which the IDPs transition from coils to globules serve as useful proxies for the LCST/UCST values. This implies that one can design sequences with desired values for the theta temperature with either increasing or decreasing radii of gyration above the theta temperature. Here, we show that the Monte Carlo simulations performed in the so-called intrinsic solvation (IS) limit version of the temperature dependent self-Assembly of Biomolecules Studied by an Implicit, Novel, and Tunable Hamiltonian (ABSINTH) implicit solvation model yield a useful heuristic for discriminating between sequences with known LCST and UCST phase behavior. Accordingly, we use this heuristic in a supervised approach, integrate it with a genetic algorithm, combine this with IS limit simulations, and demonstrate that novel sequences can be designed with LCST phase behavior. These calculations are aided by direct estimates of temperature dependent free energies of solvation for model compounds that are derived using the polarizable atomic multipole optimized energetics for biomolecular applications forcefield. To demonstrate the validity of our designs, we calculate coil-globule transition profiles using the full ABSINTH model and combine these with Gaussian cluster theory calculations to establish the LCST phase behavior of designed IDPs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number021119
Number of pages13
JournalAPL Materials
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)


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