Plasma membranes have a structural property, commonly referred to as membrane fluidity, that is compositionally regulated. The two main features of plasma membrane lipid composition that determine membrane fluidity are the ratio of cholesterol to phospholipids and the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids that are incorporated into the phospholipids. These ratios are determined, at least in part, by regulation of membrane lipid biosynthesis-particularly that of cholesterol and oleate. It now appears that cholesterol and oleate biosynthesis are feedback regulated by a common transcriptional mechanism which is governed by the maturation of the SREBP transcription factors. In this article, we briefly review our current understanding of transcriptional regulation of plasma membrane lipid biosynthesis by sterols and oleate. We also discuss studies related to the mechanism by which the physical state of membrane lipids signals the transcriptional regulatory machinery to control the rates of synthesis of these structural components of the lipid bilayer.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.