Annual Meeting

The era of “smart” organelles

A Discover BMB symposium: Organelles, Mechanisms and Phase Properties of Cellular Quality Control
W. Mike Henne Cheryl A. Kerfeld
By W. Mike Henne and Cheryl A. Kerfeld
Sept. 28, 2022

Organelles are the fundamental units of cellular organization, and our understanding of their roles in cell physiology has evolved dramatically since they first were described in the early 20th century. Though organelles originally were thought of as simple compartments for biochemical reactions and confined to eukaryotes, new studies have revealed “smart” roles for them in fine-tuning metabolism as well as serving as platforms coordinating signaling and quality-control pathways in both bacteria and eukaryotes.

Recent work illuminates the organizational principles governing how organelles cleverly coordinate cell quality control. These reveal how organelles create microenvironments for metabolic pathways, how they facilitate interorganelle communication to sense and respond to specific cues, and how the phase properties of lipids and proteins equip organelles to protect cells from stress and maintain organismal homeostasis.

Our symposia at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s annual meeting, Discover BMB, in Seattle in March illustrate these themes and feature work in an array of fields, including prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell biology, cancer biology, and phase separation biophysics.

Just like in the song “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons, organelles are equipped to do whatever is necessary for cells to adapt and survive the ever-present challenges of life.

Keywords: Bacterial microcompartments, interorganelle communication, protein and lipid phase separation, mitochondrial metabolism.

Who should attend: Anyone interested in learning how organelles are constructed, organized and responsive to signals. Also people interested in the phase properties of proteins and lipids in organelle biology.

Theme song: “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons.

The session is powered by lipids, proteins and cellular stress.


Bacterial organelles
Luning LuUniversity of Liverpool
Danielle Tullman–ErcekNorthwestern University
Cheryl Kerfeld (chair), Michigan State University
Arash KomelliUniversity of California, Berkeley

Phase separation in organelle structure and function
W. Mike Henne (chair), University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
David SavageUniversity of California, Berkeley/Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Martin JonikasPrinceton University
Alex MerzUniversity of Washington School of Medicine

Inter-organelle communication
Rushika Perera (chair), University of California, San Francisco
Karin ReinischYale University
Laura LacknerNorthwestern University
Sarah CohenUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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W. Mike Henne
W. Mike Henne

W. Mike Henne is an assistant professor in the department of cell biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. His lab studies lipid droplets and the organization of metabolism in cells.

Cheryl A. Kerfeld
Cheryl A. Kerfeld

Cheryl A. Kerfeld is a researcher at the US Department of Energy Plant Research Lab and a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Michigan State University.

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