Stress granules: regulators or by-products?

FEBS J. 2022 Jan;289(2):363-373. doi: 10.1111/febs.15821. Epub 2021 Mar 27.


Cells have to deal with conditions that can cause damage to biomolecules and eventually cell death. To protect against these adverse conditions and promote recovery, cells undergo dramatic changes upon exposure to stress. This involves activation of signaling pathways, cell cycle arrest, translational reprogramming, and reorganization of the cytoplasm. Notably, many stress conditions cause a global inhibition of mRNA translation accompanied by the formation of cytoplasmic condensates called stress granules (SGs), which sequester mRNA together with RNA-binding proteins, translation initiation factors, and other components. SGs are highly conserved in eukaryotes, suggesting that they perform an important function during the stress response. Over the years, many different roles have been assigned to SGs, including translational control, mRNA storage, regulation of mRNA decay, antiviral innate immune response, and modulation of signaling pathways. Most of our understanding, however, has been deduced from correlative data based upon the composition of SGs and only recently have technological innovations allowed hypotheses for SG function to be directly tested. Here, we discuss these challenges and explore the evidence related to the function of SGs.

Keywords: anti-apoptotic signaling; innate immune response; integrated stress response; mRNA translation; stress granules.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cytoplasmic Granules / genetics*
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / immunology
  • Heat-Shock Response / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics*
  • Oxidative Stress / genetics
  • RNA Stability / genetics
  • RNA Stability / immunology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • Stress Granules / genetics*
  • Stress Granules / immunology


  • RNA, Messenger