Liquid droplets of aggregation-prone proteins, which become hydrogels or form amyloid fibrils, are a potential target for drug discovery. In this study, we proposed an experiment-guided protocol for characterizing the design grammar of peptides that can regulate droplet formation and aggregation. The protocol essentially involves investigation of 19 amino acid additives and polymerization of the identified amino acids. As a proof of concept, we applied this protocol to fused in sarcoma (FUS). First, we evaluated 19 amino acid additives for an FUS solution and identified Arg and Tyr as suppressors of droplet formation. Molecular dynamics simulations suggested that the Arg additive interacts with specific residues of FUS, thereby inhibiting the cation–π and electrostatic interactions between the FUS molecules. Second, we observed that Arg polymers promote FUS droplet formation, unlike Arg monomers, by bridging the FUS molecules. Third, we found that the Arg additive suppressed solid aggregate formation of FUS, while Arg polymer enhanced it. Finally, we observed that amyloid-forming peptides induced the conversion of FUS droplets to solid aggregates of FUS. The developed protocol could be used for the primary design of peptides controlling liquid droplets and aggregates of proteins.
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