NSF Research Triangle Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA; Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Liquid granules rich in intrinsically disordered proteins and RNA play key roles in critical cellular functions such as RNA processing and translation. Many details of the mechanism via which this occurs remain to be elucidated. Motivated by the lacuna in the field and by the prospects of developing de novo artificial granules that provide extrinsic control of translation, we report a bottom-up approach to engineer ribonucleoprotein granules composed of a recombinant RNA-binding IDP that exhibits phase behavior in water. We developed a kinetic model to illustrate that these granules inhibit translation through reversible or irreversible sequestration of mRNA. Within monodisperse droplets capable of transcription and translation, we experimentally demonstrate temporal inhibition of translation by using designer IDPs that exhibit tunable phase behavior. This work lays the foundation for developing artificial granules that promise to further our mechanistic understanding of their naturally occurring counterparts.