A validation strategy to assess the role of phase separation as a determinant of macromolecular localization

Hedtfeld M, Dammers A, Koerner C, Musacchio A (2024). Mol Cell


Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) of putative assembly scaffolds has been proposed to drive the biogenesis of membraneless compartments. LLPS scaffolds are usually identified through in vitro LLPS assays with single macromolecules (homotypic), but the predictive value of these assays remains poorly characterized. Here, we apply a strategy to evaluate the robustness of homotypic LLPS assays. When applied to the chromosomal passenger complex (CPC), which undergoes LLPS in vitro and localizes to centromeres to promote chromosome biorientation, LLPS propensity in vitro emerged as an unreliable predictor of subcellular localization. In vitro CPC LLPS in aqueous buffers was enhanced by commonly used crowding agents. Conversely, diluted cytomimetic media dissolved condensates of the CPC and of several other proteins. We also show that centromeres do not seem to nucleate LLPS, nor do they promote local, spatially restrained LLPS of the CPC. Our strategy can be adapted to purported LLPS scaffolds of other membraneless compartments.

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