Transport Selectivity of Nuclear Pores, Phase Separation, and Membraneless Organelles

Trends Biochem Sci. 2016 Jan;41(1):46-61. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2015.11.001. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


Nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) provide a selective passageway for receptor-mediated active transport between nucleus and cytoplasm, while maintaining the distinct molecular compositions of both compartments at large. In this review we discuss how NPCs gain a remarkable sorting selectivity from non-globular FG domains and their phase separation into dense polymer meshworks. The resulting sieve-like FG hydrogels are effective barriers to normal macromolecules but are at the same time highly permeable to shuttling nuclear transport receptors, which bind to FG motifs as well as to their designated cargoes. Phase separation driven by disordered protein domains was recently also recognized as being pivotal to the formation of membraneless organelles, making it an important emerging principle in cell biology.

Keywords: FG domains; intracellular phase separation; intrinsically disordered proteins; nuclear pore; protein disorder; protein phases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nuclear Pore / metabolism*
  • Organelles / metabolism*