Latest Findings on Phase Separation of Cytomechanical Proteins

LUO Guowen, ZHOU Chenchen


The cellular response to mechanical stimuli depends largely on the structure of the cell itself and the abundance of intracellular cytomechanical proteins also plays a key role in the response to the stimulation of external mechanical signals. Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) is the process by which proteins or protein-RNA complexes spontaneously separate and form two distinct "phases", ie, a low-concentration phase coexisting with a high-concentration phase. According to published findings, membrane-free organelles form and maintain their structures and regulate their internal biochemical activities through LLPS. LLPS, a novel mechanism for intracellular regulation of the biochemical reactions of biomacromolecules, plays a crucial role in modulating the responses of cytomechanical proteins. LLPS leads to the formation of highly concentrated liquid-phase condensates through multivalent interactions between biomacromolecules, thereby regulating a series of intracellular life activities. It has been reported that a variety of cytomechanical proteins respond to external mechanical signals through LLPS, which in turn affects biological behaviors such as cell growth, proliferation, spreading, migration, and apoptosis. Herein, we introduced the mechanisms of cytomechanics and LLPS. In addition, we presented the latest findings on cytomechanical protein phase separation, covering such issues as the regulation of focal adhesion maturation and mechanical signal transduction by LIM domain-containing protein 1 (LIMD1) phase separation, the regulation of intercellular tight junctions by zonula occludens (ZO) phase separation, and the regulation of cell proliferation and apoptosis by cytomechanical protein phase separation of the Hippo signaling pathway. The proposition of LLPS provides an explanation for the formation mechanism of intracellular membraneless organelles and supplies new approaches to understanding the biological functions of intracellular physiology or pathology. However, the molecular mechanisms by which LLPS drives focal adhesions and cell-edge dynamics are still not fully understood. It is not clear whether LLPS under in vitro conditions can occur under physiological conditions of organisms. There are still difficulties to be overcome in using LLPS to explain the interactions of multiple intracellular molecules. Researchers should pursue answers to these questions in the future.

Keywords: Liquid-liquid phase separation,  Cytomechanics,  Cytomechanical protein,  Review

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