Protein-coat dynamics and cluster phases in intracellular trafficking
Clustering of membrane proteins is a hallmark of biological membranes' lateral organization and crucial to their function. However, the physical properties of these protein aggregates remain poorly understood. Ensembles of coat proteins, the example considered here, are necessary for intracellular transport in eukaryotic cells. Assembly and disassembly rates for coat proteins involved in intracellular vesicular trafficking must be carefully controlled: their assembly deforms the membrane patch and drives vesicle formation, yet the protein coat must rapidly disassemble after vesiculation. Motivated by recent experimental findings for protein-coat dynamics, we study a dynamical Ising-type model for coat assembly and disassembly, and demonstrate how simple dynamical rules generate a robust, steady-state distribution of protein clusters (corresponding to intermediate budded shapes) and how cluster sizes are controlled by the kinetics. We interpret the results in terms of both vesiculation and the coupling to cargo proteins.