Priya Banerjee on Phase Transition and Hollow Condensates

The Dewpoint family welcomed Dr. Priya Banerjee on April 21 as our guest at the Kitchen Table Talk series. Priya is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Buffalo. His lab applies high resolution single molecule fluorescence techniques to study the biophysical principles that underlie regulation of RNA-protein biomolecular condensates.

In this Kitchen Table Talk, Priya discusses an interesting phenomenon rooted in classical polymer physics, where tuning of the relative concentration of the two polymers (protein and RNA) in a heterotypic condensate pushes the system into a reentrant phase, driving formation of vacuolated droplets. 

Priya Banerjee on Phase Transition and Hollow Condensates

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Diana Mitrea (00:00:05):
Hey, it is my pleasure to welcome my friend and former partner in crime, Dr. Priya Banerjee to today’s Kitchen Table Talk hosted by Dewpoint Therapeutics. Priya earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Calcutta, and after graduating with a master’s degree in chemistry in India, Priya moved to the US to pursue his PhD in the lab of Jayanti Pande at SUNY Albany in New York.

Diana (00:00:33):
Priya studied protein liquid-liquid phase separation actually before it became mainstream cool. During his PhD, he studied mutation-induced perturbation and phase separation in crystallins, and how this process contributes to development of cataracts.

Diana (00:00:55):
After his PhD, Priya moved to San Diego where he joined Ashok Deniz’s lab at the Scripps Research Institute. Here, his work focused on characterization of IDR and IDP conformational landscape, using the power of single molecule fluorescence techniques. During this time, I had the honor to work with Priya, and we co-authored three manuscripts together.

Diana (00:01:19):
In 2017, Priya moved back to New York to join University of Buffalo, where he’s currently an assistant professor in the Department of Physics. Priya’s lab now applies high resolution single molecule fluorescence techniques to study the biophysical principles that underlie regulation of RNA and protein condensates. So welcome Priya, and we look forward to hearing about your work.

Priya Banerjee (00:01:46):
Thank you Diana for such a nice introduction. Can everybody see my slide?

Diana (00:01:52):

Priya Banerjee (00:01:54):
Okay, perfect. And my laser pointer? So it was great introduction, I just want to mention one quick thing, my encounter of liquid-liquid phase separation was in my PhD days, and I still remember when as a fresh graduate student looking to join a lab, I walk into this laboratory where they were studying calf lenses and they put them at four degree centigrade room. The lens becomes completely opaque, and they put it outside, within minutes, it’s completely clear.

Priya Banerjee (00:02:31):
I did not understand what’s going on, and they told me that they are looking into the molecular details of that process. I thought it might not be a bad idea to study that process. Later, that became a very important aspect of cell biology, as we now know that many cellular processes, if not all cellular processes have some sort of phase transition driven, controlled in space and time.

Priya Banerjee (00:03:02):
Again, thanks for the invitation today. I’ll be talking to you about some of the stuff that we’re doing in my lab in last few years. We’re looking at the biophysical principles that govern formation and regulation of such condensates, and here we’re looking at molecules which are present in all these condensates such as protein and RNA.

Priya Banerjee (00:03:28):
To the audience of phase separation, I think we don’t need much introduction to tell you why this is important. I just wanted to acknowledge all this work by many, many different laboratories over the past five to seven years showing that cells have these bodies that do not have membrane. They’re now classified as biomolecular condensates, so if you go to the nucleus of a typical eukaryotic cell, you see nucleolus where ribosome biogenesis takes place, and there are chromatin domains, nuclear speckles, which are all phase separated, or to some extent phase separated condensates. If you go to the cytoplasm, you have stress granules, processing bodies, which play a big role in RNA metabolism.

Priya Banerjee (00:04:17):
So the overarching thing here is basically that the membraneless organelles provide cells a way to activate or repress signaling processes, and they share this common theme of biogenesis which is driven by phase separation….

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