The molecular language of membraneless organelles [Cell Biology]

July 25th, 2018 by Edward Gomes, James Shorter

Eukaryotic cells organize their intracellular components into organelles that can be membrane-bound or membraneless. A large number of membraneless organelles, including nucleoli, Cajal bodies, P-bodies, and stress granules, exist as liquid droplets within the cell and arise from the condensation of cellular material in a process termed liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS). Beyond a mere organizational tool, concentrating cellular components into membraneless organelles tunes biochemical reactions and improves cellular fitness during stress. In this review, we provide an overview of the molecular underpinnings of the formation and regulation of these membraneless organelles. This molecular understanding explains emergent properties of these membraneless organelles and shines new light on neurodegenerative diseases, which may originate from disturbances in LLPS and membraneless organelles.