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Just like all matter, proteins can also switch between gas, liquid and solid phases. Protein phase transition has claimed the spotlight in recent years as a novel way of how cells compartmentalize and regulate biochemical reactions. Moreover, this discovery has provided a new framework for the study of membrane-less organelle biogenesis and protein aggregation in neurodegenerative disorders. We now argue that this framework could be useful in the study of cell cycle regulation and cancer. Based on our work on phase transitions of arginine-rich proteins in neurodegeneration, via combining mass spectroscopy with bioinformatics analyses, we found that also numerous proteins involved in the regulation of the cell cycle can undergo protein phase separation. Indeed, several proteins whose function affects the cell cycle or are associated with cancer, have been recently found to phase separate from the test tube to cells. Investigating the role of this process for cell cycle proteins and understanding its molecular underpinnings will provide pivotal insights into the biology of cell cycle progression and cancer.
Boeynaems, S., Tompa, P., & Van Dan Bosch, L. (2018, January 25). Phasing in on the cell cycle. Cell Division. BioMed Central Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13008-018-0034-4