Regulation of biomolecular condensates by interfacial protein clusters

Science. 2021 Sep 10;373(6560):1218-1224. doi: 10.1126/science.abg7071. Epub 2021 Sep 9.


Biomolecular condensates are cellular compartments that can form by phase separation in the absence of limiting membranes. Studying the P granules of Caenorhabditis elegans, we find that condensate dynamics are regulated by protein clusters that adsorb to the condensate interface. Using in vitro reconstitution, live observations, and theory, we demonstrate that localized assembly of P granules is controlled by MEG-3, an intrinsically disordered protein that forms low dynamic assemblies on P granules. Following classic Pickering emulsion theory, MEG-3 clusters lower surface tension and slow down coarsening. During zygote polarization, MEG-3 recruits the DYRK family kinase MBK-2 to accelerate spatially regulated growth of the P granule emulsion. By tuning condensate-cytoplasm exchange, interfacial clusters regulate the structural integrity of biomolecular condensates, reminiscent of the role of lipid bilayers in membrane-bound organelles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins / metabolism*
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Zygote / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Intrinsically Disordered Proteins
  • MEG-3 protein, C elegans
  • PGL-3 protein, C elegans
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • MBK-2 protein, C elegans
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases