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Mechanical Frustration of Phase Separation in the Cell Nucleus by Chromatin

Yaojun Zhang, Daniel S. W. Lee, Yigal Meir, Clifford P. Brangwynne, and Ned S. Wingreen
Phys. Rev. Lett. 126, 258102 – Published 24 June 2021
Physics logo See synopsis: Chromatin May Control How Droplets Form and Grow in Cells


Liquid-liquid phase separation is a fundamental mechanism underlying subcellular organization. Motivated by the striking observation that optogenetically generated droplets in the nucleus display suppressed coarsening dynamics, we study the impact of chromatin mechanics on droplet phase separation. We combine theory and simulation to show that cross-linked chromatin can mechanically suppress droplets’ coalescence and ripening, as well as quantitatively control their number, size, and placement. Our results highlight the role of the subcellular mechanical environment on condensate regulation.

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  • Received 24 December 2020
  • Accepted 18 May 2021


© 2021 American Physical Society

Physics Subject Headings (PhySH)

  1. Physical Systems
Polymers & Soft MatterStatistical PhysicsBiological Physics


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Chromatin May Control How Droplets Form and Grow in Cells

Published 24 June 2021

In cell nuclei, molecular structures called chromatin may play a role in the formation of droplets that are crucial for many cellular functions.

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Authors & Affiliations

Yaojun Zhang1,2,*, Daniel S. W. Lee2,*, Yigal Meir1,3,4, Clifford P. Brangwynne5,6, and Ned S. Wingreen2,4,†

  • 1Department of Physics, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA
  • 2Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA
  • 3Department of Physics, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva 84105, Israel
  • 4Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA
  • 5Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA
  • 6Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815, USA

  • *These two authors contributed equally.
  • wingreen@princeton.edu.

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Vol. 126, Iss. 25 — 25 June 2021

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