The compartmentalization of cells ensures a highly specific distribution of nucleic acids, proteins and metabolites. At the same time, intracellular compartments must communicate and exchange molecules. Two major systems enable exchange between compartments: compartmental gates and contact sites. While compartmental gates mediate the selective partitioning of molecules between cytoplasm and organelles or within a membrane, contact sites represent direct physical connections between compartment-enclosing membranes. Thus, within living cells, compartmental gates and contact sites represent two complementary systems, which functionally cooperate or directly interact with each other to coordinate compartmentalized processes.
This SFB-initiative is committed to addressing the role of compartmental gates and contact sites in cellular organization and physiology. We aim to understand how they achieve a selective distribution of molecules and thus functionally define and diversify cellular compartments.