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Biologic features help cells stay organized

Memphis, Tennessee, December 20, 2021

Three St. Jude scientists standing outside the Inspiration4 Advanced Research Center having  a conversation

(L to R) Anne Bremer Ph.D., Wade Borcherds Ph.D. and Tanja Mittag Ph.D., all of the St. Jude Department of Structural Biology

Phase separation is a process cells use to sort and separate proteins and other components. It helps cells stay organized. Scientists at St. Jude and Washington University in St. Louis are studying this process.

They created a stickers-and-spacers model to predict phase separation. Stickers are in certain regions in the protein chain. How spacers arrange and intersperse the stickers affects phase separation.

Building on that work, the scientists learned more about types of stickers and spacers. They also studied how a protein’s positive or negative charge influences phase separation. 

“We now have a concept that allows us to know what the stickers and spacers are doing in every sequence context, instead of having to study each individual sequence separately,” said co-corresponding author Tanja Mittag, Ph.D., Structural Biology.

Nature Chemistry published this work. 

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