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IMM colloquium January 2018: "Life in a condensed form - Emergence of life-like properties in coacervate droplets" (Lecture)

Tuesday 30 January 2018Add to my calendar
from 16:00
dr. Evan Spruijt (Physical Organic Chemistry)
"Life in a condensed form - Emergence of life-like properties in coacervate droplets"
Preceding lecture
Fleur Kleinpenning, MSc (Biomolecular Chemistry), title: "Proteomic mapping by a spatially-restricted arylamine N-acetyltransferase"

Evan SpruijtCompartmentalisation of biochemical reactions into organelles is a key organizing principle in many cells. Surprisingly, an important fraction of organelles lacks a membrane boundary, and is formed instead by condensation (coacervation) of macromolecules. These membraneless compartments can readily exchange small molecules with their environment, but they selectively accumulate large molecules. In the cell, they provide unique chemical microenvironments in which biomolecules are concentrated, folded and protected, and their reactions modulated. Owing to these properties, they may also have played an important role in the origin and evolution of the first cells.

We use coacervate droplets as model membraneless compartments to study how their internal chemical environment affects the structure and reaction rates of molecules. We investigate chemical ways to create, shape and grow these compartments in a dynamic way, similar to what happens in living cells. In this colloquium, we will focus on a recently developed minimal enzymatic network that fully controls the fate of ATP-based membraneless compartments. The condensation and dissolution of compartments is dynamic and reversible, triggered by the addition of small-molecule substrates and completed within minutes. Their internal chemical environment helps protect RNA and sensitive esters from degradation and hydrolysis, which was important for the first cells. What’s more, the incorporation of proteins that can self-assemble into filaments in such an environment can lead to striking life-like behavior, as shown by the emergence of spontaneously dividing cell-like fibrils.