How Cells Use Biomolecular Condensation to Sense and Respond to Environmental Changes

Mar 27, 2024, 4:00 pm5:00 pm



Event Description

Cells across the tree of life react to sudden maladaptive changes--stresses--in consistent ways. Proteins and mRNAs aggregate, most protein synthesis halts, and mRNAs encoding chaperones, long considered components of a protein-misfolding rescue system, are massively expressed and selectively translated. Heat shock, oxidative stress, starvation, and other so-called proteotoxic stresses trigger similar reactions, leading to the model that stress-induced formation of toxic misfolded aggregates is the central challenge met by conserved cellular responses. However, evidence has mounted for a fundamentally different interpretation: that physiological stress is often an authentic biological signal, that cells use biomolecular condensation to sense and transduce these signals, that condensation reorganizes the cell to adaptively redirect activities such as translation in response to these signals, and that chaperones are major regulators of condensation. Here, in contrast to toxic aggregates, the central phenomena are adaptive condensates. I will discuss the unique aspects of adaptive condensation, both empirical and conceptual, with an emphasis on open questions.