Active Coacervate Droplets as a Model for Membraneless Organelles and a Platform Towards Synthetic Life

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, and that this up-take is accelerated by the chemical reaction cycle. Finally, we show that in their pathway towards decay, these droplets self-divide asymmetrically. Self-division combined with emergence, decay, rapid exchange of building blocks, and functionality are all hallmarks of life, and we believe that our work could be a stepping stone towards its synthesis.