Endoplasmic reticulum contact sites regulate the dynamics of membraneless organelles

Science. 2020 Jan 31;367(6477):eaay7108. doi: 10.1126/science.aay7108.


Tethered interactions between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and other membrane-bound organelles allow for efficient transfer of ions and/or macromolecules and provide a platform for organelle fission. Here, we describe an unconventional interface between membraneless ribonucleoprotein granules, such as processing bodies (P-bodies, or PBs) and stress granules, and the ER membrane. We found that PBs are tethered at molecular distances to the ER in human cells in a tunable fashion. ER-PB contact and PB biogenesis were modulated by altering PB composition, ER shape, or ER translational capacity. Furthermore, ER contact sites defined the position where PB and stress granule fission occurs. We thus suggest that the ER plays a fundamental role in regulating the assembly and disassembly of membraneless organelles.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism
  • Organelles / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Protein Unfolding
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Ribonucleoproteins / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ribonucleoproteins