Institute for the Physics of Living Systems


IPLS/BioP Seminar: Prof. Liam Holt (New York University)

16 December 2019, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Liam Holt

Title: A fantastic voyage into the cell: Crowding, compression, condensation and cancer

Event Information

Open to





A1/3 (4th Floor)
Physics Building
Gower Street

Abstract: Tens of thousands of biochemical reactions occur simultaneously in the cell. Small molecules are channeled through metabolic pathways at blistering speed. Giant complexes assemble to orchestrate transcription and translation. ATP fuels the active transport of organelles along microtubules, and actin networks drive membrane remodeling and agitate the cytoplasm. All of this occurs within a crowded cell interior that approaches the physical limits where molecular jamming will occur. This extreme physical environment is both essential for life, and a potential liability. If cells become too dilute, they senesce and die. On the other hand, mechanical compression increases crowding and eventually stalls growth. Perturbations to crowding will change the balance of reaction rates in the cell. Crowding also drives biomolecular condensation, which in turn is thought to regulate myriad processes. We propose that perturbations to the physical properties of the cell interior through compression and dysregulation of growth pathways play an important role in both normal cell biology and cancer.

About the Speaker

Prof. Liam Holt

at New York University

More about Prof. Liam Holt