Macromolecular crowding effects in cell biology: models and experiments

Crowding effects
Orleans, France
Biological media are far from ideal: inside living cells more 30 % of the volume is occupied by tens of thousands of macromolecules. In certain situations, the concentration can be even higher. In the eye lens of artic fish, for example, proteins account for more than 59 % of the volume. It is now recognized that crowding is a crucial factor. As it is widely recognized, crowding is a real control mechanism in biological processes occurring in the cell. Crowding effects, for example, regulate hormones and mediators, while there is increasing evidence that also the elusive bases of allosteric induction in proteins involved in gene regulation can be somehow rationalized in terms of the concentration of neighboring effector molecules. Other activities in the cell are expected to be affected by the level of crowding, such as trafficking and signaling in cells and bacteria and the functioning of the nuclear pore complex. Despite the fast-growing body of data, there are still fundamental gaps in our knowledge that prevent us from fully understanding how the cellular environment acts in fine-tuning and modulating biological phenomena occurring in vivo, such as cell signaling and gene regulation. This two-days workshop will gather biologists, chemists, physicists, experimental and theoretical reserchers all interested in this fast-growing field. World-leading experts on crowding will be able to discuss with experimental scientists as well as theoreticians from different domains. The interdisciplinary nature of the meeting, with much space left for discussions and round tables, and the stimulating environment of the LE STUDIUM® center for advanced studies will provide the ideal setting to let new ideas blossom, triggering new collaborations and shaping the forthcoming challenges.

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