In higher eukaryotes, the nucleolus harbors at least three sub-phases that facilitate multiple functionalities including ribosome biogenesis. The three prominent coexisting sub-phases are the fibrillar center (FC), the dense fibrillar component (DFC), and the granular component (GC). Here, we review recent efforts in profiling sub-phase compositions that shed light on the types of physicochemical properties that emerge from compositional biases and territorial organization of specific types of macromolecules. We highlight roles played by molecular grammars which refers to protein sequence features including the substrate binding domains, the sequence features of intrinsically disordered regions, and the multivalence of these distinct types of domains / regions. We introduce the concept of a barcode of emergent physicochemical properties of nucleoli. Although our knowledge of the full barcode remains incomplete, we hope that the concept prompts investigations into undiscovered emergent properties and engenders an appreciation for how and why unique microenvironments control biochemical reactions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2319957
JournalNucleus (United States)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024


  • Biomolecular condensates
  • emergent properties
  • nucleolus
  • pH gradients
  • phase separation


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