CRC 235 Emergence of Life

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Active Coacervate Droplets as a Model for Membraneless Organelles and Protocells

C. Donau 2020 Nature Communications


C. Donau, F. Späth, M. Sosson, B.A.K. Kriebisch, F. Schnitter, M. Tena-Solsona, H.-S. Kang, E. Salibi, M. Sattler, H. Mutschler and J. Boekhoven

Nature communications


Membraneless organelles like stress granules are active liquid-liquid phase-separated droplets that are involved in many intracellular processes. Their active and dynamic behavior is often regulated by ATP-dependent reactions. However, how exactly membraneless organelles control their dynamic composition remains poorly understood. Herein, we present a model for membraneless organelles based on RNA-containing active coacervate droplets regulated by a fuel-driven reaction cycle. These droplets emerge when fuel is present, but decay without. Moreover, we find these droplets can transiently up-concentrate functional RNA which remains in its active folded state inside the droplets. Finally, we show that in their pathway towards decay, these droplets break apart in multiple droplet fragments. Emergence, decay, rapid exchange of building blocks, and functionality are all hallmarks of membrane-less organelles, and we believe that our work could be powerful as a model to study such organelles.