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Liquid Crystal Coacervates Composed of Short Double Stranded DNA and Cationic Peptides

revised on 30.04.2020, 12:57 and posted on 30.04.2020, 13:18 by Tommaso Fraccia, Tony Z. Jia

Phase separation of nucleic acids and proteins is a ubiquitous phenomenon regulating sub-cellular compartment structure and function. While complex coacervation of flexible single stranded nucleic acids is broadly investigated, coacervation of double stranded DNA (dsDNA) is less studied because of its propensity to generate solid precipitates. Here, we reverse this perspective by showing that short dsDNA and poly-L-lysine coacervates can escape precipitation while displaying a surprisingly complex phase diagram, including the full set of liquid crystal (LC) mesophases observed to date in bulk dsDNA. LC-coacervate structure was characterized upon variations in temperature and monovalent salt, DNA and peptide concentrations, which allow continuous transitions between all accessible phases. A deeper understanding of LC-coacervates can gain insights to decipher structures and phase transition mechanisms within biomolecular condensates, to design stimuli-responsive multi-phase synthetic compartments with different degrees of order and to exploit self-assembly driven cooperative prebiotic evolution of nucleic acids and peptides.


Équipement d’Excellence grant, “Investissements d’avenir,” program ANR-10-EQPX-34

JSPS Kakenhi Grant-in-Aid JP18K14354

Japan Astrobiology Center Project Grants AB311021

Japan Astrobiology Center Project Grants AB021008

Tokyo Institute of Technology Seed Grant “Tane” 1798

French Embassy in Japan - Programme Exploration France


Email Address of Submitting Author


École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris - PSL University



ORCID For Submitting Author


Declaration of Conflict of Interest

No conflict of interest