bims-fascar Biomed News
on Phase separation and cellular architecture
Issue of 2019‒10‒13
two papers selected by
Victoria Yan
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics


  1. Mol Biol Cell. 2019 Oct 10. mbcE18120823
    Kim S, Kalappurakkal JM, Mayor S, Rosen MK.
      The plasma membrane of eukaryotic cells is organized into lipid and protein microdomains, whose assembly mechanisms and functions are incompletely understood. We demonstrate that proteins in the Nephrin/Nck/N-WASP actin-regulatory pathway cluster into micron-scale domains at the basal plasma membrane upon triggered phosphorylation of transmembrane Nephrin. The domains are persistent but readily exchange components with their surroundings, and their formation is dependent on the number of Nck SH3 domains, suggesting they are phase separated polymers assembled through multivalent interactions among the three proteins. The domains form independent of the actin cytoskeleton, but acto-myosin contractility induces their rapid lateral movement. Nephrin phosphorylation induces larger clusters at the cell periphery, which are associated with extensive actin assembly and dense filopodia. Our studies illustrate how multivalent interactions between proteins at the plasma membrane can produce micron-scale organization of signaling molecules, and how the resulting clusters can both respond to and control the actin cytoskeleton. [Media: see text] [Media: see text] [Media: see text] [Media: see text] [Media: see text] [Media: see text].
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1091/mbc.E18-12-0823
  2. Genes Dev. 2019 Oct 08.
    McSwiggen DT, Mir M, Darzacq X, Tjian R.
      The idea that liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) may be a general mechanism by which molecules in the complex cellular milieu may self-organize has generated much excitement and fervor in the cell biology community. While this concept is not new, its rise to preeminence has resulted in renewed interest in the mechanisms that shape and drive diverse cellular self-assembly processes from gene expression to cell division to stress responses. In vitro biochemical data have been instrumental in deriving some of the fundamental principles and molecular grammar by which biological molecules may phase separate, and the molecular basis of these interactions. Definitive evidence is lacking as to whether the same principles apply in the physiological environment inside living cells. In this Perspective, we analyze the evidence supporting phase separation in vivo across multiple cellular processes. We find that the evidence for in vivo LLPS is often phenomenological and inadequate to discriminate between phase separation and other possible mechanisms. Moreover, the causal relationship and functional consequences of LLPS in vivo are even more elusive. We underscore the importance of performing quantitative measurements on proteins in their endogenous state and physiological abundance, as well as make recommendations for experiments that may yield more conclusive results.
    Keywords:  condensate; fluorescence recovery after photobleaching; liquid–liquid phase separation; phase separation
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1101/gad.331520.119