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EMBO | EMBL Symposia: Cellular Mechanisms Driven by Phase Separation (2024)

This conference will take place at EMBL Heidelberg, with the option to attend virtually.

Registration is not yet open for this event. If you are interested in receiving more information please register your interest.

Symposium Overview

The realisation that intracellular phase transitions underlie the formation of membrane-less compartmentalisation in cells has transformed our understanding of cellular organisation. While the existence of membrane-less organelles, such as nucleoli, stress granules, and Cajal bodies had been known for a long time, it had remained largely unclear until recently how they were formed, maintained, and regulated. Biomolecular condensates are often highly dynamic, and continuously exchange their components with the surrounding environment. These properties enable tight, cooperative regulation of compartmentalisation, concentration of biomolecules and fast adaptive responses. Beyond large intracellular bodies, the same physical principles are emerging as organising principles for a wide range of subcellular bodies including heterochromatin, super-enhancers, and membrane receptor clusters. Moreover, new insights into biology are emerging hand-in-hand with the development and application of condensed matter physics to provide a quantitative framework to interpret and predict how cells form and regulate biomolecular condensates.

To take full advantage of these newly emerging principles, we need to develop new tools and approaches to characterise the emergent properties of phase-separated states and their impact on biological function. This requires a combination of cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, structural biology, biophysics, soft matter physics, and polymer physics. This combination of disciplines will allow researchers to synergistically decipher how novel functions and pathologies emerge from the process of phase separation in biological systems, and what molecular underpinnings facilitate and regulate this key process.

This conference will bring together scientists from diverse fields, thinking environments, and scientific backgrounds. By doing so, we hope to foster new discoveries and nurture a new generation of scientists who challenge the boundaries of existing fields and think outside the box to tackle important emerging problems in the life sciences