Partha Sarathi Roy*


Complex coacervation [formation of a dense macroion-rich phase (the coacervate) in equilibrium with a dilute macroion-poor phase (continuous phase or supernatant)] is a particular case of associative phase separation that occurs when oppositely charged macroions (or polyelectrolytes) are mixed. Since the pioneering work of Bungenberg de Jong and co-workers on gelatin–acacia gum complex coacervation in the 1920–40s, coacervates have received increasing research interest because a variety of mature and emerging technologies depend critically on the association of oppositely charged polymers or particles. To relate complex coacervation to medical science, disruption of normal intracellular complex coacervation, or gain of function mutations leading to abnormal complex coacervation, can cause disease. Benedek[1] used the term ―molecular condensation disease‖ to broadly describe cataracts and other pathologies associated with abnormal protein phase separation. ―Cold‖ cataracts are the reversible opacification of the lens by liquid–liquid phase separation of cytoplasmic crystallin proteins. As another example, the leading cause of fronto-temporal dementia may be a protein condensation disease caused by mistranslated arginine-rich dipeptide repeat proteins that insert or dissolve into liquid phase- defined intracellular compartments, disrupting their normal function.[2] Conceivably, better understanding of the physical chemistry of complex coacervation of biomacromolecules and the role of specific functional groups could lead to treatments for pathological intra- cellular phase separations.

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