In DepthCell Biology

Protein ‘drops’ may seed brain disease

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Science  23 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6259, pp. 366-367
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6259.366

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Over the past year, several groups have independently seen liquidlike droplets formed by proteins in test tubesand in cells, and four papers on the unusual phenomenon have just been published in Cell and Molecular Cell. Already, investigators are proposing that such droplet formation is a key part of the machinery regulating gene expression in cells. When the process goes awry, they suggest, it can also lead to the solid protein aggregatethat are a hallmark of several other neurodegenerative diseases. Steve McKnight, a biochemist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, suggests that biologists are on the cusp of something profound. "We are seeing the first glimpses of … a whole new understanding of how cells are organized."