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Scientists Study Membrane-Less Organelles in Cells and Its Unique Functionalities

The insides of a human cell consist, in part, of a complicated soup of millions of molecules.

One way these biological compounds remain organized is through membrane-less organelles (MLOs) — wall-less liquid droplets created from proteins and RNA that lump together and stay separate from the rest of the cellular stew.

You can consider these fluid compartments as being akin to oil droplets in water. MLOs facilitate storage of molecules inside cells and can function a center of biochemical activity; recruiting molecules wanted to carry out critical cellular reactions.

Though these droplets are abundant inside cells, they represent an emerging field of research in cell biology. Little is understood about how they are created and maintained with unique functionalities.

To address this data gap, one University at Buffalo laboratory is using cutting-edge scientific procedures to investigate the fundamental properties of how MLOs work. The research is led by Priya R. Banerjee, Ph.D., an assistant professor of physics within the UB College of Arts and Sciences.

In a paper published in Scientific Reports, Banerjee and associates report that MLOs may be highly delicate to the extent of divalent cations inside cells. That is vital because divalent calcium and magnesium ions support in cellular signaling and are vital to life.

In experiments, MLOs containing each protein and RNA kind when divalent cations had been present in low concentrations. However, when concentrations of those cations were high, liquid organelles holding RNA molecules had been favored. The tests were systematically carried out utilizing controlled model systems comprising protein and RNA molecules floating in a buffer solution.

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