Repair Foci as Liquid Phase Separation: Evidence and Limitations

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Judith Miné-Hattab, Siyu Liu, Angela Taddei

In response to DNA double strand breaks (DSB), repair proteins accumulate at damaged sites, forming membrane-less condensates or “foci”. The formation of these foci and their disassembly within the proper time window are essential for genome integrity. However, how these membrane-less sub-compartments are formed, maintained and disassembled remains unclear. Recently, several studies across different model organisms proposed that DNA repair foci form via liquid phase separation. In this review, we discuss the current research investigating the physical nature of repair foci. First, we present the different models of condensates proposed in the literature, highlighting the criteria to differentiate them. Second, we discuss evidence of liquid phase separation at DNA repair sites and the limitations of this model to fully describe structures formed in response to DNA damage. Finally, we discuss the origin and possible function of liquid phase separation for DNA repair processes.