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Theoretical insights into multi-component phase separation

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SPLW03 - Biological condensates: cellular mechanisms governed by phase transitions

Phase separation of biomolecules is a fundamental process that gives rise to membraneless organelles critical for the spatiotemporal organization of the cell. These biomolecular condensates typically consist of multiple components, yet understanding how interactions between these components influence condensate stability has proven challenging. In this talk, I will present our theoretical efforts to study multi-component phase separation and connect experimental measurements with the underlying physical parameters of phase separation. First, I will discuss self-consistent approaches to obtain analytical solutions for binodal concentrations within the Flory Huggins model. I will demonstrate how these solutions can be effectively employed to fit experimental binodal data, enabling us to extract key underlying physical parameters of phase separation. I will then show how the sign of the tie-line gradient is related to interaction energies in the study of biomolecular phase separation, opening up a route for the characterization of interaction types and compositions in multi-component phase-separation systems. Since biological condensates contain multiple species of proteins and nucleic acids, there is a clear need for quantitative biophysical characterization of the roles that different components play in the phase-separation process, and our approach provides a method for parsing these interactions apart.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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