Liquid-liquid phase separation in biology

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2014;30:39-58. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-100913-013325.


Cells organize many of their biochemical reactions in non-membrane compartments. Recent evidence has shown that many of these compartments are liquids that form by phase separation from the cytoplasm. Here we discuss the basic physical concepts necessary to understand the consequences of liquid-like states for biological functions.

Keywords: P granules; biological liquids; chemical potential; origin of life; phase separation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Compartmentation* / physiology
  • Cytoplasm / chemistry
  • Diffusion
  • Entropy
  • Gels
  • Intracellular Fluid / chemistry*
  • Origin of Life
  • Phase Transition
  • Solubility
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Gels