Mechano-dependent sorbitol accumulation supports biomolecular condensate

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Biomolecular condensates regulate a wide range of cellular functions from signaling to RNA metabolism 1, 2 , yet, the physiologic conditions regulating their formation remain largely unexplored. Biomolecular condensate assembly is tightly regulated by the intracellular environment. Changes in the chemical or physical conditions inside cells can stimulate or inhibit condensate formation 3–5 . However, whether and how the external environment of cells can also regulate biomolecular condensation remain poorly understood. Increasing our understanding of these mechanisms is paramount as failure to control condensate formation and dynamics can lead to many diseases 6, 7 . Here, we provide evidence that matrix stiffening promotes biomolecular condensation in vivo . We demonstrate that the extracellular matrix links mechanical cues with the control of glucose metabolism to sorbitol. In turn, sorbitol acts as a natural crowding agent to promote biomolecular condensation. Using in silico simulations and in vitro assays, we establish that variations in the physiological range of sorbitol, but not glucose, concentrations, are sufficient to regulate biomolecular condensates. Accordingly, pharmacologic and genetic manipulation of intracellular sorbitol concentration modulates biomolecular condensates in breast cancer – a mechano-dependent disease. We propose that sorbitol is a mechanosensitive metabolite enabling protein condensation to control mechano-regulated cellular functions. Altogether, we uncover molecular driving forces underlying protein phase transition and provide critical insights to understand the biological function and dysfunction of protein phase separation.

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