Assembly of Mitotic Structures through Phase Separation

J Mol Biol. 2018 Nov 2;430(23):4762-4772. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2018.04.041. Epub 2018 May 8.


Cells compartmentalize biochemical reactions using organelles, which can be membrane enclosed or built entirely of proteins and ribonucleic acids. Recent studies indicate that many organelles that lack membranes have liquid-like properties, including the ability to flow, fuse, and undergo rapid internal rearrangement. The assembly of these "biomolecular condensates" has been described as liquid-liquid phase separation, whereby their constituent components demix from the cytoplasm, similar to water separating from oil. Other studies suggest that protein phase separation followed by maturation, where intramolecular connections strengthen over time, can lead to gel- or glass-like states. This review discusses how the principles of phase separation might help to understand the assembly and behavior of organelles that operate in mitosis, when the cell assembles the mitotic spindle to segregate chromosomes. Special attention is given to the mitotic pericentriolar material of centrosomes and the spindle matrix.

Keywords: centrosomes; gelation; mitosis; phase separation; spindle matrix.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosomes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mitosis
  • Organelles / metabolism*
  • Phase Transition
  • Spindle Apparatus / metabolism*