Aryan F, Detrés D, Luo CC, Kim SX, Shah AN, Bartusel M, Flynn RA, Calo E. 2023. Nucleolus activity-dependent recruitment and biomolecular condensation by pH sensing. Molecular cell. 83(23):4413-4423.e10. Pubmed: 37979585 DOI:S1097-2765(23)00868-7


DEAD-box ATPases are major regulators of biomolecular condensates and orchestrate diverse biochemical processes that are critical for the functioning of cells. How DEAD-box proteins are selectively recruited to their respective biomolecular condensates is unknown. We explored this in the context of the nucleolus and DEAD-box protein DDX21. We find that the pH of the nucleolus is intricately linked to the transcriptional activity of the organelle and facilitates the recruitment and condensation of DDX21. We identify an evolutionarily conserved feature of the C terminus of DDX21 responsible for nucleolar localization. This domain is essential for zebrafish development, and its intrinsically disordered and isoelectric properties are necessary and sufficient for the ability of DDX21 to respond to changes in pH and form condensates. Molecularly, the enzymatic activities of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases contribute to maintaining the nucleolar pH and, consequently, DDX21 recruitment and nucleolar partitioning. These observations reveal an activity-dependent physicochemical mechanism for the selective recruitment of biochemical activities to biomolecular condensates.
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Ryan Flynn’s laboratory is focused on the exploration and discovery of how biopolymers like RNA and glycans work together to control cellular processes in the context of human disease.

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