Cells organize membrane-less internal compartments through a process called liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS) to create chemically distinct compartments, referred to as condensates, which emerge from interactions among biological macromolecules. These condensates include various cytoplasmic structures such as P-granules and stress granules. However, an even wider array of condensates subcompartmentalize the cell nucleus, forming liquid-like structures that range from nucleoli and Cajal bodies to nuclear speckles and gems. Phase separation provides a biophysical assembly mechanism underlying this non-covalent form of fluid compartmentalization and functionalization. In this Cell Science at a Glance article and the accompanying poster, we term these phase-separated liquids that organize the nucleus the liquid nucleome; we discuss examples of biological phase transitions in the nucleus, how the cell utilizes biophysical aspects of phase separation to form and regulate condensates, and suggest interpretations for the role of phase separation in nuclear organization and function.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cell Biology
- Nuclear organization
- Phase separation