Sequence-Independent Self-Assembly of Germ Granule mRNAs into Homotypic Clusters

Tatjana Trcek, Tyler E. Douglas, Markus Grosch, Yandong Yin, Whitby V.I. Eagle, Elizabeth R. Gavis, Hari Shroff, Eli Rothenberg, Ruth Lehmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


mRNAs enriched in membraneless condensates provide functional compartmentalization within cells. The mechanisms that recruit transcripts to condensates are under intense study; however, how mRNAs organize once they reach a granule remains poorly understood. Here, we report on a self-sorting mechanism by which multiple mRNAs derived from the same gene assemble into discrete homotypic clusters. We demonstrate that in vivo mRNA localization to granules and self-assembly within granules are governed by different mRNA features: localization is encoded by specific RNA regions, whereas self-assembly involves the entire mRNA, does not involve sequence-specific, ordered intermolecular RNA:RNA interactions, and is thus RNA sequence independent. We propose that the ability of mRNAs to self-sort into homotypic assemblies is an inherent property of an messenger ribonucleoprotein (mRNP) that is augmented under conditions that increase RNA concentration, such as upon enrichment in RNA-protein granules, a process that appears conserved in diverse cellular contexts and organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-950.e12
JournalMolecular Cell
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 4 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


  • RNA clusters
  • RNA granules
  • RNA phase separation
  • RNA self-assembly
  • RNA sorting
  • RNA:RNA interactions
  • germ granules
  • homotypic RNA assembly
  • nanos
  • oskar


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