Spatial organization of the cell cytoplasm by position-dependent phase separation

Phys Rev Lett. 2013 Aug 23;111(8):088101. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.111.088101. Epub 2013 Aug 20.


During asymmetric cell division, cytoplasmic components are segregated to opposite sides of the cell. We discuss how the observed segregation can be achieved by a position-dependent phase separation mechanism controlled by a protein concentration gradient. We show that effects of even a weak gradient can be amplified by the phase transition to achieve strong segregation. We compare our theory to the segregation of germ granules observed during the divisions in the C. elegans embryo. Our study demonstrates how liquid-liquid phase separation can play a key role in the organization of the cytoplasm.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Cytoplasm / chemistry
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Cytoplasm / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*