Principles of cellular control of phase separation

Statistical Physics and Complexity Group meeting

Principles of cellular control of phase separation

  • Event time: 3:00pm until 4:00pm
  • Event date: 9th May 2023
  • Speaker: (Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Göttingen)
  • Location: Online - see email.

Event details

Phase separation is a crucial mechanism to organize biomolecules in cells. The resulting droplets concentrate molecules and thus affect cellular processes via sequestering molecules, regulating reactions, and exerting forces. To regulate all these processes, cells need to ensure the right droplets form in the right locations at the right time. I will present two principles that cells use to control droplets. First, I will focus on multicomponent phase separation and show that tuning the interactions between biomolecules allows controlling which droplets form, independent of the cellular composition. Evolution could thus have optimized proteins to form the right droplets robustly. Second, I will focus on driven chemical reactions that affect the droplet material. For instance, cells use post-translational modifications to modify the interactions of biomolecules. I will show that such reactions can control where and when droplets grow and how large they get. Such active droplets can also divide spontaneously and eventually arrange in a regular pattern akin to Turing's mechanism. These two examples demonstrate how living cells regulate phase separation to structure their interior.

Event resources