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      Biomolecular condensates: organizers of cellular biochemistry

      , , ,
      Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology
      Springer Nature

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          Abstract

          In addition to membrane-bound organelles, eukaryotic cells feature various membraneless compartments, including the centrosome, the nucleolus and various granules. Many of these compartments form through liquid–liquid phase separation, and the principles, mechanisms and regulation of their assembly as well as their cellular functions are now beginning to emerge.

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          Most cited references117

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          A Liquid-to-Solid Phase Transition of the ALS Protein FUS Accelerated by Disease Mutation.

          Many proteins contain disordered regions of low-sequence complexity, which cause aging-associated diseases because they are prone to aggregate. Here, we study FUS, a prion-like protein containing intrinsically disordered domains associated with the neurodegenerative disease ALS. We show that, in cells, FUS forms liquid compartments at sites of DNA damage and in the cytoplasm upon stress. We confirm this by reconstituting liquid FUS compartments in vitro. Using an in vitro "aging" experiment, we demonstrate that liquid droplets of FUS protein convert with time from a liquid to an aggregated state, and this conversion is accelerated by patient-derived mutations. We conclude that the physiological role of FUS requires forming dynamic liquid-like compartments. We propose that liquid-like compartments carry the trade-off between functionality and risk of aggregation and that aberrant phase transitions within liquid-like compartments lie at the heart of ALS and, presumably, other age-related diseases.
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            Liquid-liquid phase separation in biology.

            Cells organize many of their biochemical reactions in non-membrane compartments. Recent evidence has shown that many of these compartments are liquids that form by phase separation from the cytoplasm. Here we discuss the basic physical concepts necessary to understand the consequences of liquid-like states for biological functions.
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              Germline P granules are liquid droplets that localize by controlled dissolution/condensation.

              In sexually reproducing organisms, embryos specify germ cells, which ultimately generate sperm and eggs. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the first germ cell is established when RNA and protein-rich P granules localize to the posterior of the one-cell embryo. Localization of P granules and their physical nature remain poorly understood. Here we show that P granules exhibit liquid-like behaviors, including fusion, dripping, and wetting, which we used to estimate their viscosity and surface tension. As with other liquids, P granules rapidly dissolved and condensed. Localization occurred by a biased increase in P granule condensation at the posterior. This process reflects a classic phase transition, in which polarity proteins vary the condensation point across the cell. Such phase transitions may represent a fundamental physicochemical mechanism for structuring the cytoplasm.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology
                Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol
                Springer Nature
                1471-0072
                1471-0080
                February 22 2017
                February 22 2017
                :
                :
                Article
                10.1038/nrm.2017.7
                7434221
                28225081
                d1ceaa65-aeb1-4aca-a3b5-6f47d96dfd7b
                © 2017
                History

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