Translation repressors, an RNA helicase, and developmental cues control RNP phase transitions during early development

Dev Cell. 2013 Oct 28;27(2):161-173. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2013.09.024.


Like membranous organelles, large-scale coassembly of macromolecules can organize functions in cells. Ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) can form liquid or solid aggregates, but control and consequences of these RNP states in living, developing tissue are poorly understood. Here, we show that regulated RNP factor interactions drive transitions among diffuse, semiliquid, or solid states to modulate RNP sorting and exchange in the Caenorhabditis elegans oocyte cytoplasm. Translation repressors induce an intrinsic capacity of RNP components to coassemble into either large semiliquids or solid lattices, whereas a conserved RNA helicase prevents polymerization into nondynamic solids. Developmental cues dramatically alter both fluidity and sorting within large RNP assemblies, inducing a transition from RNP segregation in quiescent oocytes to dynamic exchange in the early embryo. Therefore, large-scale organization of gene expression extends to the cytoplasm, where regulation of supramolecular states imparts specific patterns of RNP dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / embryology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Oocytes / growth & development
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Phase Transition*
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA Helicases / genetics
  • RNA Helicases / metabolism*
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA Nucleotidyltransferases / genetics
  • RNA Nucleotidyltransferases / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Ribonucleoproteins / genetics
  • Ribonucleoproteins / metabolism*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Puf-5 protein, C elegans
  • Puf-6 protein, C elegans
  • Puf-7 protein, C elegans
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • RNA Nucleotidyltransferases
  • cgh-1 protein, C elegans
  • RNA Helicases