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The Depletion Attraction: An Underappreciated Force Driving Cellular Organization

Davide Marenduzzo, Kieran Finan, Peter R. Cook

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Cellular structures are shaped by hydrogen and ionic bonds, plus van der Waals and hydrophobic forces. In cells crowded with macromolecules, a little-known and distinct force—the “depletion attraction”—also acts. We review evidence that this force assists in the assembly of a wide range of cellular structures, ranging from the cytoskeleton to chromatin loops and whole chromosomes.