Phase Separation in Cells: Biomolecular Condensates as Organisers of Cellular Biochemistry

G. Gompper (Theoretical Physics of Living Matter)
C. A. M. Seidel (Molecular Physical Chemistry, HHU)

Phase separation plays an important role in biological systems. A recently discovered example is the formation of bimolecular condensates or droplets, which can be considered as “membrane-less organelles”. They can serve as compartments in which biochemical reactions take place, and can contain intrinsically disordered proteins, RNA, and DNA. Phase transitions are observed in a large variety of systems that includes — in the biological context — water (droplet formation), lipid membranes (“raft” domains), and ternary oil-water-amphiphile mixtures. In this lecture, a general theoretical description is introduced, which introduces the Ising model as the standard model of phase transitions, the molecular-field approximation, and a continuum approach to characterise phases, phase transitions, and interfaces. These theoretical concepts will then be applied to polymers, in particular the physical chemistry of intracellular phase transitions. The biological importance of phase separation and bimolecular condensates in cells will be discussed and illustrated by several experimental examples.

Wednesday, January 15, 14:00-15:30
Wednesday, January 22, 15:00-16:30
Wednesday, April 22, 15:00-16:30
Wednesday, April 29, 15:00-16:30

Last Modified: 09.05.2023