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

submitted on 20.01.2020, 11:44 and posted on 21.01.2020, 13:07 by Carsten Donau, Fabian Späth, Marilyne Sosson, Brigitte Kriebisch, Fabian Schnitter, Marta Tena-Solsona, Hyun-Seo Kang, Elia Salibi, Michael Sattler, Hannes Mutschler, Job Boekhoven
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.


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) – Project-16 364653263 – TRR 235

Technical University of Munich – Institute for Advanced Study, funded by the German Excellence Initiative and the European Union Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement n° 291763.


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TUM - Chemistry Department



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Declaration of Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing interests.