J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2021, Vol. 63 ›› Issue (11): 1835-1855.DOI: 10.1111/jipb.13152

Special Issue: Development

• Invited Expert Review •     Next Articles

Phase separation in plants: New insights into cellular compartmentalization

Xiumei Xu, Canhui Zheng, Dandan Lu, Chun‐Peng Song and Lixin Zhang*   

  1. State Key Laboratory of Crop Stress Adaptation and Improvement, School of Life Sciences, Henan University, Kaifeng 475004, China

    Correspondence: Lixin Zhang (zhanglixin@henu.edu.cn)
  • Received:2021-04-13 Accepted:2021-07-16 Online:2021-07-27 Published:2021-11-01

Abstract: A fundamental challenge for cells is how to coordinate various biochemical reactions in space and time. To achieve spatiotemporal control, cells have developed organelles that are surrounded by lipid bilayer membranes. Further, membraneless compartmentalization, a process induced by dynamic physical association of biomolecules through phase transition offers another efficient mechanism for intracellular organization. While our understanding of phase separation was predominantly dependent on yeast and animal models, recent findings have provided compelling evidence for emerging roles of phase separation in plants. In this review, we first provide an overview of the current knowledge of phase separation, including its definition, biophysical principles, molecular features and regulatory mechanisms. Then we summarize plant-specific phase separation phenomena and describe their functions in plant biological processes in great detail. Moreover, we propose that phase separation is an evolutionarily conserved and efficient mechanism for cellular compartmentalization which allows for distinct metabolic processes and signaling pathways, and is especially beneficial for the sessile lifestyle of plants to quickly and efficiently respond to the changing environment.

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