Liquid-liquid Phase Separation as a Common Organizing Principle of Intracellular Space and Biomembranes Providing Dynamic Adaptive Responses

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Intrinsically Disordered Protein, Liquid-liquid Phase Separation, Membrane-less Organelles

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This work is devoted to the phenomenon of liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS), which has come to be recognized as fundamental organizing principle of living cells. We distinguish separation processes with different dimensions. Well-known 3D-condensation occurs in aqueous solution and leads to membraneless organelle (MLOs) formation. 2D-films may be formed near membrane surfaces and lateral phase separation (membrane rafts) occurs within the membranes themselves. LLPS may also occur on 1D structures like DNA and the cyto- and nucleoskeleton. Phase separation provides efficient transport and sorting of proteins and metabolites, accelerates the assembly of metabolic and signaling complexes, and mediates stress responses. In this work, we propose a model in which the processes of polymerization (1D structures), phase separation in membranes (2D structures), and LLPS in the volume (3D structures) influence each other. Disordered proteins and whole condensates may provide membrane raft separation or polymerization of specific proteins. On the other hand, 1D and 2D structures with special composition or embedded IDRs can nucleate condensates. We hypothesized that environmental change may trigger a LLPS which can propagate within the cell interior moving along the cytoskeleton or as an autowave. New phase propagation quickly and using a low amount of energy adjusts cell signaling and metabolic systems to new demands. Cumulatively, the interconnected phase separation phenomena in different dimensions represent a previously unexplored system of intracellular communication and regulation which cannot be ignored when considering both physiological and pathological cell processes.

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Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Molecular Cell Research, v. 1868, issue 11, art. 119102