Phase separation organizes the site of autophagosome formation

Journal: Nature

Published: 2020-02-05

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-1977-6

Affiliations: 15

Authors: 11

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Research Highlight

Tiny liquid droplets yield cellular recycling depots

© KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty

© KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty

The cell’s recycling hub, the autophagosome, takes shape via a process of ‘phase separation’, in which the various protein building blocks coalesce within the cell, much like beads of oil in vinaigrette, to form distinct liquid droplets.

The finding, by a Japan-led team that included researchers from Kanazawa University, indicates that the autophagosome is not only involved in degrading biomolecular condensates composed of other proteins and RNA molecule; the organelle itself comes together in the same way as well.

The researchers used various microscopy techniques to watch the autophagosome-generating machinery in action. Working with yeast cells and with autophagy-related proteins in a test tube, they obtained detailed evidence that the pre-autophagosomal structure forms inside liquid droplets. The team also showed how various mutations and chemical tags can impair this process by inhibiting phase separation.

Supported content

  1. Nature 578, 301–305 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-1977-6
Institutions Share
Institute of Microbial Chemistry (IMC), Japan 0.32
The University of Tokyo (UTokyo), Japan 0.20
Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech), Japan 0.18
Kanazawa University (KU), Japan 0.14
RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research (BDR), Japan 0.11
Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPIKG), Germany 0.02
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology (MPIMP), Germany 0.02

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