Nat Commun. 2022 Nov 23;13(1):7181. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-35000-2.
Asymmetric cell division (ACD) produces morphologically and behaviorally distinct cells and is the primary way to generate cell diversity. In the model bacterium Caulobacter crescentus, the polarization of distinct scaffold-signaling hubs at the swarmer and stalked cell poles constitutes the basis of ACD. However, mechanisms involved in the formation of these hubs remain elusive. Here, we show that a swarmer-cell-pole scaffold, PodJ, forms biomolecular condensates both in vitro and in living cells via phase separation. The coiled-coil 4-6 and the intrinsically disordered regions are the primary domains that contribute to biomolecular condensate generation and signaling protein recruitment in PodJ. Moreover, a negative regulation of PodJ phase separation by the stalked-cell-pole scaffold protein SpmX is revealed. SpmX impedes PodJ cell-pole accumulation and affects its recruitment ability. Together, by modulating the assembly and dynamics of scaffold-signaling hubs, phase separation may serve as a general biophysical mechanism that underlies the regulation of ACD in bacteria and other organisms.