The P-bodies finally identifies within eukaryotic cells

Dominique Weil's1 team recently published in the Molecular Cell2 journal a pioneering study describing the purification and analysis of P-bodies (P for "processing"), which are droplets of RNA and proteins that condense in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells. In view of their microscopic size (500 nm in diameter) and low abundance (less than ten per cell), their purification by the FAPS (Fluorescence-Activated Particle Sorting) method is a real feat that has enabled researchers to define more precisely the role of these poorly understood entities.

Sometimes presented as RNA degradation centres, sometimes as mRNA storage sites, the team's work determined that P-bodies constitute a storage place for mRNAs that can be easily and rapidly mobilized to ensure regulatory functions within the cell (protein synthesis and degradation, cell division, etc.). The researchers also highlighted a negative feedback loop in which the P-bodies themselves limit the translation of their own proteins.

These results represent an important breakthrough in the study of RNA granules and their functions, as well as the mechanisms that allow eukaryotic cells to adapt to environmental variations, a capability that may prove key to their survival.

This study was the subject of an article on the INSB website of the CNRS and was included in the newsletter "En direct des labos". It is also highlighted in Molecular Cell.


1. Équipe Compartimentation et Trafic Intracellulaire des mRNP (UMR 7622)

2. P-body purification reveals the condensation of repress mRNA regulonsMolecular Cell, 2017.