All cellular compartments are separated from the external environment by a membrane, which consists of a lipid bilayer. Subcellular structures, including clathrin-coated pits, caveolae, filopodia, lamellipodia, podosomes, and other intracellular membrane systems, are molded into their specific submicron-scale shapes through various mechanisms. Cells construct their micro-structures on plasma membrane and execute vital functions for life, such as cell migration, cell division, endocytosis, exocytosis, and cytoskeletal regulation. The plasma membrane, rich in anionic phospholipids, utilizes the electrostatic nature of the lipids, specifically the phosphoinositides, to form interactions with cytosolic proteins. These cytosolic proteins have three modes of interaction: 1) electrostatic interaction through unstructured polycationic regions, 2) through structured phosphoinositide-specific binding domains, and 3) through structured domains that bind the membrane without specificity for particular phospholipid. Among the structured domains, there are several that have membrane-deforming activity, which is essential for the formation of concave or convex membrane curvature. These domains include the amphipathic helix, which deforms the membrane by hemi-insertion of the helix with both hydrophobic and electrostatic interactions, and/or the BAR domain superfamily, known to use their positively charged, curved structural surface to deform membranes. Below the membrane, actin filaments support the micro-structures through interactions with several BAR proteins as well as other scaffold proteins, resulting in outward and inward membrane micro-structure formation. Here, we describe the characteristics of phospholipids, and the mechanisms utilized by phosphoinositides to regulate cellular events. We then summarize the precise mechanisms underlying the construction of membrane micro-structures and their involvements in physiological and pathological processes.
Copyright © 2014 the American Physiological Society.