FIREBALL: A tool to fit protein phase diagrams based on mean-field theories for polymer solutions

Mina Farag, Alex S. Holehouse, Xiangze Zeng, Rohit V. Pappu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Biomolecular condensates form via phase transitions of condensate-specific biomacromolecules. Intrinsically disordered regions featuring the appropriate sequence grammars can contribute via homotypic and heterotypic interactions to the driving forces for phase separation of multivalent proteins. Experiments and computations have matured to the point where the concentrations of coexisting dense and dilute phases can be measured or computed for individual intrinsically disordered regions in complex milieus. For a macromolecule such as a disordered protein in a solvent, the locus of points that connects concentrations of the two coexisting phases defines a phase boundary, or binodal. Often, only a few points along the binodal are accessible via measurements. In such cases, and for quantitative and comparative analysis of parameters that describe the driving forces for phase separation, it is useful to fit measured or computed binodals to mean-field free energies for polymer solutions. The nonlinearity of the underlying free energy functions makes it challenging to put mean-field theories into practice. Here, we present FIREBALL, a suite of computational tools designed to enable efficient construction, analysis, and fitting to experimental or computed data of binodals. We show that depending on the theory being used, one can also extract information regarding coil-to-globule transitions of individual macromolecules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2396-2403
Number of pages8
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Biophysics


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