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Read “Liquid-liquid phase separation in biology” in Annual Reviews and “Are aberrant phase transitions a driver of cellular aging?” in Bioessays

Everything you ever wanted to know about our current understanding of cytoplasmic organization by phase separation, from the physics behind it to the consequences for disease, in one comprehensive review:

Hyman AA, Weber CA, Jülicher F. Liquid-liquid phase separation in biology. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2014 Oct 11;30:39-58.

2016 UPDATE: Also read a new review and perspective by Tony Hyman and Simon Alberti in Bioessays:

Are aberrant phase transitions a driver of cellular aging?
Alberti S, Hyman AA.
Bioessays. 2016 Oct;38(10):959-68. doi: 10.1002/bies.201600042. Epub 2016 Aug 24.

Impact of water in a water-surface

Image credit: Marlon Felippe, Wikimedia Commons

The Benefits of a “Central Service” for Biology Preprints

Visit the ASAPbio website to learn about a new proposal to create a Central Service for biology preprints. The relationship of this Central Service to existing preprint servers would be akin to the relationship between PubMed and scientific journals. ASAPbio has released a Request for Applications (RFA) for the development of a Central Service for biology preprints, proposals for which are due on April 30, 2017.

How did life begin? Dividing droplets could hold the answer. (Article in Quanta Magazine)

The story of our publication in Nature Physics, “Growth and division of active droplets provides a model for protocells,” has been picked up by Quanta Magazine (and re-published in Wired Magazine as well).

Read the full story here! 

Lucy Reading-Ikkanda/Quanta Magazine

Cover of Trends in Molecular Medicine

Belated congratulations are in order to the authors and illustrators of the cover article for the September issue of Trends in Molecular Medicine! See the cover and associated description below.

Common molecular pathways in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Frontotemporal Dementia. Jochen H. Weishaupt, Tony Hyman, Ivan Dikic. Trends in Molecular Medicine, 2016. [PDF][PubMed]


“Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia are related dementias. On pages 769–783, Dikic and colleagues discuss recent findings associating autophagy, vesicle trafficking, and RNA metabolism to neuronal death, identifying common links between these dementias. The cover evokes the therapeutic potential of manipulating such cellular processes to “eat away” at pathogenicity in the brain. Yellow ‘Pacmen’ symbolize ‘autophagy’. Yellow dots represent ‘physiological stress granules’, maturing into ‘bad stress granule monsters’ (light blue, center). The monsters symbolize ‘mitochondria’, ‘protein aggregates’ and ‘aberrant stress granules’. Illustration by Julia Eichhorn. Cover design by Catarina Sacristán.”

New publication: Growth and division of active droplets provides a model for protocells

The latest work in our ongoing collaboration with the lab of Frank Jülicher is now out in Nature Physics. Congratulations to all the authors!

Growth and division of active droplets provides a model for protocells
David Zwicker, Rabea Seyboldt, Christoph A. Weber, Anthony A. Hyman & Frank Jülicher, Nature Physics (2016)

It has been proposed that during the early steps in the origin of life, small droplets could have formed via the segregation of molecules from complex mixtures by phase separation. These droplets could have provided chemical reaction centres. However, whether these droplets could divide and propagate is unclear. Here we examine the behaviour of droplets in systems that are maintained away from thermodynamic equilibrium by an external supply of energy. In these systems, droplets grow by the addition of droplet material generated by chemical reactions. Surprisingly, we find that chemically driven droplet growth can lead to shape instabilities that trigger the division of droplets into two smaller daughters. Therefore, chemically active droplets can exhibit cycles of growth and division that resemble the proliferation of living cells. Dividing active droplets could serve as a model for prebiotic protocells, where chemical reactions in the droplet play the role of a prebiotic metabolism.

New preprint: The centrosome is a selective phase that nucleates microtubules by concentrating tubulin

The Hyman lab is proud to publish preprints, which we post in parallel to journal submission. You can find our latest manuscript on bioRxiv, and we welcome your feedback:

The centrosome is a selective phase that nucleates microtubules by concentrating tubulin
Jeffrey B Woodruff, Beatriz Ferreira Gomes, Per O Widlund, Julia Mahamid, and Anthony A Hyman

Photo from lab dinner at ASCB

Here’s a quick photo from last week’s Hyman lab dinner during ASCB 2016 in San Francisco! It was great to see former members like Laurence Pelletier and Garrett Greenan, as well as collaborators Elvan Boke and Marco Hein.

See you next year at the joint ASCB/EMBO meeting in Philadelphia!

Current and former Hyman lab members out to dinner during ASCB 2016

Current and former Hyman lab members out to dinner during ASCB 2016

Annual Christmas Market outing

After Tony’s annual vision talk at our “Lab Day,” everyone gathered for glühwein and cheer at our traditional trip to the Neumarkt Christmas Market. Happy holidays, everyone!


The most colorful safety briefing

Our brilliant baker and Masters student Stephen helped make the annual safety briefing much more festive this year. Check out his incredible rainbow cake! cake4 cake5 cake6 cake2 cake1 cake3

New! Video abstract for “Amyloid-like self-assembly of a cellular compartment”

Watch the video abstract for Boke et al 2016, “Amyloid-like self-assembly of a cellular compartment,” and see the full post about it on the Science Sketches website!

Come see us at ASCB 2016!

The Hyman lab is represented at the 2016 ASCB annual meeting, taking place now in San Francisco. Come see us if you’re here!

• Sunday, Dec 4, 12pm-1:30pm: Louise Jawerth presents her poster, “The liquid to gel transition in protein droplets” (poster B1345)

• Sunday, Dec 4, 5:20pm-5:35pm: Shamba Saha gives a talk, “An mRNA competition mechanism regulated localized phase separation of liquid-like P granules in C. elegans embryo,” Room 103

• Monday, Dec 5, 12:28-12:35pm: Elvan Boke gives a talk, “Amyloid-like self-assembly of a cellular compartment,” Microsymposia Room 2 Hall C

• Monday, Dec 5,1:30pm-3:00pm: Jeff Woodruff presents his poster, “The centrosome is a selective phase that nucleates microtubules by concentrating tubulin” (poster B342)

Yesterday (Dec 3), Tony spoke at the ASAPbio session to advocate for the use of pre-prints in Biology, and he also spoke at the stem cell session, giving a talk entitled, “Cell biology of the stem cell to neuron transformation.”

Finally, Lisa Dennison will be at all 3 Science Discussion Tables (Dec 4, 11am-12pm; Dec 5, 3-4pm; Dec 6, 11am-12pm), discussing sciencesketches.org

We hope to see you here in San Francisco!

On Research Funding and the Power of Youth

Read the full essay on the importance of funding young scientists, written for the President’s Column of the October issue of the ASCB newsletter by Tony Hyman, Ashad Desai, and Peter Walter.

“On Research Funding and the Power of Youth” – PDF

Video: Interview with Tony about phase transitions and disease

Watch a video of Tony explaining phase transitions and disease on the new website “Latest Thinking,” which is a video collection of researchers explaining their latest breakthroughs. Be sure to also check out the videos of Tony answering other short questions in the “Beyond” section just below the main video.

Congratulations to Oliver, Jeff, and colleagues on their paper & video abstract in Biology Open, investigating regulation of centrosome assembly

In new work published this month in Biology Open, Oliver Wueseke, David Zwicker, Jeff Woodruff, and colleagues show that PKL-1 phosphorylation of the centrosome scaffold protein SPD-5 is a key regulatory step which determines centrosome size and density. Importantly, they show that this step is not necessary for proper maintenance or function of the centrosome. Watch their Science Sketches video abstract below, and read the full article online, which is currently featured on the Biology Open home page!

Polo-like kinase phosphorylation determines Caenorhabditiselegans centrosome size and density by biasing SPD-5 toward an assembly-competent conformation
Oliver Wueseke*, David Zwicker*, Anne Schwager, Yao Liang Wong, Karen Oegema, Frank Jülicher, Anthony A. Hyman, Jeffrey B. Woodruff
Biology Open 2016 5: 1431-1440; doi: 10.1242/bio.020990

Welcome, Ceciel, our newest PhD student!

The Hyman Lab welcomes Ceciel Jegers, our newest PhD student. Ceciel comes to us from the Netherlands, and she will be working on phase transitions in cells and disease.

Congratulations to Shamba on his paper in Cell on the positioning of liquid-like compartments through an RNA competition mechanism. Plus – video abstract!

In a collaboration with the group of Frank Jülicher at the MPI-PKS, Shamba Saha and colleagues have discovered that an RNA-competition mechanism is at the heart of correct P granule positioning in C. elegans. P granules are liquid-like compartments that segregate to the posterior end of the one-cell embryo before cell division. Previous work in our lab revealed that P granules dissolved at one end of the embryo and condensed at the other to drive segregation (Brangwynne et al, 2009), but it was not known what regulated this process until now. Read the paper, the MPI-CBG press release, and watch Shamba’s video abstract below!

Saha S, Weber CA, Nousch M, Adame-Arana O, Hoege C, Hein MY, Osborne-Nishimura E, Mahamid J, Jahnel M, Jawerth L, Pozniakovski A, Eckmann CR, Jülicher F, Hyman AA. Polar Positioning of Phase-Separated Liquid Compartments in Cells Regulated by an mRNA Competition Mechanism. 2016, Cell 166(6):1572-1584.

“No man is an island”: an essay from the archives about the value of collaboration

In 1996, when Tony was a group leader at the EMBL, he wrote an essay for Current Biology entitled “No man is an island” on the importance of long-term collaboration and shared credit in science. The topic is just as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. Maybe it’s time to implement Tony’s two-dimensional system for assigning authorship! Read the full essay here.2d-authorship

An interview with Tony in “Lab Times”, news magazine for the European Life Sciences

Read Tony’s interview with Lab Times, in which he discusses peer review, gender equality, open access, and more.


Goodbye, Jana!

We’ve bid a sad farewell to our intrepid intern, Jana Sipkova. Jana worked for a year with postdoc Shamba Saha, and she was a fantastic addition to the lab. She’s now heading back to the UK to finish up her bachelor studies in London. Good luck, Jana! We miss you already.

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Congratulations to Elisabeth on her paper “Rheology of the Active Cell Cortex in Mitosis”, out now in Biophysical Journal

New work from our postdoc Elisabeth Fischer-Friedrich and colleagues investigates how the mechanical properties of the cell cortex change to prepare cells for division. Their work “provides a characterization of the time-dependent mechanical properties of the mitotic cortex, confirming that it behaves like an active fluid film on longer timescales. Modulation of the properties of this film drives cell morphology and tissue reorganization.”

Read the full text for free here:

Fischer-Friedrich E, Toyoda Y, Cattin CJ, Müller DJ, Hyman AA, Jülicher F. Rheology of the Active Cell Cortex in Mitosis. 2016. Biophys J. 111(3):589-600.