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As an effective and versatile strategy to compartmentalize cellular components without the need for lipid membranes, phase separation has been found to underpin a wide range of intranuclear processes, particularly those involving chromatin. Many of the unique physico-chemical properties of chromatin-based phase condensates are harnessed by the cell to accomplish complex regulatory functions in a spatially and temporally controlled manner. Here, we survey key recent findings on the mechanistic roles of phase separation in regulating the organization and dynamics of chromatin-based molecular processes across length scales, packing states and intranuclear functions, with a particular emphasis on quantitative characterizations of these condensates enabled by advanced imaging-based approaches. By illuminating the complex interplay between chromatin and various chromatin-interacting molecular species mediated by phase separation, this review sheds light on an emerging multi-scale, multi-modal and multi-faceted landscape that hierarchically regulates the genome within the highly crowded and dynamic nuclear space. Moreover, deficiencies in existing studies also highlight the need for mechanism-specific criteria and multi-parametric approaches for the characterization of chromatin-based phase separation using complementary techniques and call for greater efforts to correlate the quantitative features of these condensates with their functional consequences in close-to-native cellular contexts.


Woei Shyuan Ng, Hendrik Sielaff, Ziqing Winston Zhao. Phase Separation-Mediated Chromatin Organization and Dynamics: From Imaging-Based Quantitative Characterizations to Functional Implications. International journal of molecular sciences. 2022 Jul 21;23(14)

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PMID: 35887384

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