Physical principles of intracellular organization via active and passive phase transitions

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Exciting recent developments suggest that phase transitions represent an important and ubiquitous mechanism underlying intracellular organization. We describe key experimental findings in this area of study, as well as the application of classical theoretical approaches for quantitatively understanding these data. We also discuss the way in which equilibrium thermodynamic driving forces may interface with the fundamentally out-of-equilibrium nature of living cells. In particular, time and/or space-dependent concentration profiles may modulate the phase behavior of biomolecules in living cells. We suggest future directions for both theoretical and experimental work that will shed light on the way in which biological activity modulates the assembly, properties, and function of viscoelastic states of living matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number046601
JournalReports on Progress in Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 23 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


  • RNA
  • bimolecular organization
  • intracellular condensates
  • organelles
  • phase separation
  • proteins
  • selfassembly


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