Role of flippases, scramblases and transfer proteins in phosphatidylserine subcellular distribution

Traffic. 2015 Jan;16(1):35-47. doi: 10.1111/tra.12233. Epub 2014 Nov 5.


It is well known that lipids are heterogeneously distributed throughout the cell. Most lipid species are synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and then distributed to different cellular locations in order to create the distinct membrane compositions observed in eukaryotes. However, the mechanisms by which specific lipid species are trafficked to and maintained in specific areas of the cell are poorly understood and constitute an active area of research. Of particular interest is the distribution of phosphatidylserine (PS), an anionic lipid that is enriched in the cytosolic leaflet of the plasma membrane. PS transport occurs by both vesicular and non-vesicular routes, with members of the oxysterol-binding protein family (Osh6 and Osh7) recently implicated in the latter route. In addition, the flippase activity of P4-ATPases helps build PS membrane asymmetry by preferentially translocating PS to the cytosolic leaflet. This asymmetric PS distribution can be used as a signaling device by the regulated activation of scramblases, which rapidly expose PS on the extracellular leaflet and play important roles in blood clotting and apoptosis. This review will discuss recent advances made in the study of phospholipid flippases, scramblases and PS-specific lipid transfer proteins, as well as how these proteins contribute to subcellular PS distribution.

Keywords: P-type ATPase; flippase; lipid transfer protein; membrane asymmetry; phosphatidylserine; scramblase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism*
  • Phospholipids / metabolism


  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Phospholipids
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases