Function of metabolic and organelle networks in crowded and organized media

Miguel A. Aon, Sonia Cortassa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


(Macro)molecular crowding and the ability of the ubiquitous cytoskeleton to dynamically polymerize-depolymerize are prevalent cytoplasmic conditions in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Protein interactions, enzymatic or signaling reactions - single, sequential or in complexes - whole metabolic pathways and organelles can be affected by crowding, the type and polymeric status of cytoskeletal proteins (e.g., tubulin, actin), and their imparted organization. The self-organizing capability of the cytoskeleton can orchestrate metabolic fluxes through entire pathways while its fractal organization can frame the scaling of activities in several levels of organization. The intracellular environment dynamics (e.g., biochemical reactions) is dominated by the orderly cytoskeleton and the intrinsic randomness of molecular crowding. Existing evidence underscores the inherent capacity of intracellular organization to generate emergent global behavior. Yet unknown is the relative impact on cell function provided by organelle or functional compartmentation based on transient proteins association driven by weak interactions (quinary structures) under specific environmental challenges or functional conditions (e.g., hypoxia, division, differentiation). We propose a qualitative, integrated structural-functional model of cytoplasmic organization based on a modified version of the Sierspinsky-Menger-Mandelbrot sponge, a 3D representation of a percolation cluster, and examine its capacity to accommodate established experimental facts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number523
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberJAN
StatePublished - 2015


  • Cytoskeleton
  • Enzyme kinetics
  • Fractal
  • Metabolism
  • Molecular crowding
  • Percolation
  • Quinary structures
  • Sierpinsky sponge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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