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Phase Separation and Disease

Phase Separation and Disease
Reported by
Pia-Kelsey O’Neill

Posted May 09, 2019

Pia-Kelsey O’Neill holds a PhD in Neuroscience from Columbia University, where she is currently completing a postdoctoral fellowship.

Presented By

The Chemical Biology Discussion Group

The New York Academy of Sciences

A broad class of organelles within the living cell is not enclosed within a membrane. Instead, these membrane-less organelles are dynamic assemblies of both RNA and proteins that coalesce in a process called liquid-liquid phase separation. During phase separation, a solution of molecules separates into two coexisting phases, one densely enriched in molecules and the other dilute. This separation serves to regulate cellular activities such as enhancing critical enzymatic reactions. Interest in the formation, organization, and dynamics of membrane-less organelles due to phase separation has grown substantially, with increasing evidence that dysregulation of this process may contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS and prion diseases, as well as cancer.

Learn about the latest advances in the field of biological phase separation and the implications for human disease in this summary of our February 20, 2019 symposium on the topic.

Symposium Highlights

  • Multivalent interactions between phenylalanine-glycine rich regions within the nuclear pore increase selectivity and transit speed of molecules into the nucleus.
  • A protein found in algae, epyc1, facilitates the aggregation of the CO2-fixing enzyme Rubisco, thus enhancing its ability to convert CO2 to sugar during photosynthesis.
  • Phase separated assemblies of the tumor suppressor SPOP and its substrate are crucial for cellular proteome quality control.
Session 1: Composition and Regulation of Biomolecular Condensates
Session 3: Regulation of Physiological Processes by Phase Separation
Session 4: Phase Separation in Disease