PerspectiveCell Biology

Liquid but not contactless

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Science  31 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6477, pp. 507-508
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba3771

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Summary

In the past decade, the understanding of cellular organization has undergone two major paradigm shifts. On the one hand, it was demonstrated that membrane-bound compartments exchange their contents not only through vesicular transport but also by means of direct membrane tethering at specific contact sites (1), revealing a new layer of connectivity in eukaryotic cells. On the other hand, the discovery of membraneless organelles, such as processing bodies (P-bodies) and stress granules, has revealed that proteins and RNAs can self-assemble and condense into liquid-like droplets through weak and multivalent interactions (2). This indicates that the cytosol is not a randomly dispersed soup of macromolecules but that it is subcompartmentalized. On page 527 of this issue, Lee et al. (3) bring these two exciting fields together by showing that a membrane-bound organelle, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), contacts at least two membraneless compartments, P-bodies and stress granules, and influences their behavior.

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