Polyunsaturated phospholipids facilitate membrane deformation and fission by endocytic proteins

Science  08 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6197, pp. 693-697
DOI: 10.1126/science.1255288

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Bending the benefits of polyunsaturates

We have often heard that it is beneficial to eat polyunsaturated fatty acids. We also know that some organelles such as synaptic vesicles are extremely rich in polyunsaturated lipids. However, what polyunsaturated lipids do in our body is unclear. Using cell biology, biochemical reconstitutions, and molecular dynamics, Pinot et al. show that polyunsaturated phospholipids can change the response of membranes to proteins involved in membrane curvature sensing, membrane shaping, and membrane fission. Polyunsaturated phospholipids make the plasma membrane more amenable to deformation; facilitate endocytosis; and, in reconstitution experiments, increased membrane fission by the dynamin-endophilin complex.

Science, this issue p. 693


Phospholipids (PLs) with polyunsaturated acyl chains are extremely abundant in a few specialized cellular organelles such as synaptic vesicles and photoreceptor discs, but their effect on membrane properties is poorly understood. Here, we found that polyunsaturated PLs increased the ability of dynamin and endophilin to deform and vesiculate synthetic membranes. When cells incorporated polyunsaturated fatty acids into PLs, the plasma membrane became more amenable to deformation by a pulling force and the rate of endocytosis was accelerated, in particular, under conditions in which cholesterol was limiting. Molecular dynamics simulations and biochemical measurements indicated that polyunsaturated PLs adapted their conformation to membrane curvature. Thus, by reducing the energetic cost of membrane bending and fission, polyunsaturated PLs may help to support rapid endocytosis.

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