ERK signaling dissolves ERF repression condensates in living embryos.
Phase separation underlies the organization of the nucleus, including the biogenesis of nucleoli and the packaging of heterochromatin. Here we explore the regulation of transcription factor condensates involved in gene repression by ERK signaling in gastrulating embryos of a simple proto-vertebrate (). ERK signaling induces nuclear export of the transcriptional repressor Ets-2 repressive factor (ERF), which has been linked to various human developmental disorders. Using high-resolution imaging, we show that ERF is localized within discrete nuclear condensates that dissolve upon ERK activation. Interestingly, we observe dynamic pulses of assembly and dissociation during interphase, providing visualization of a nuclear phase separation process regulated by cell signaling. We discuss the implications of these observations for producing sharp on/off switches in gene activity and suppressing noise in cell-cell signaling events.