Exploring the existence of lipid rafts in bacteria

Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2015 Mar;79(1):81-100. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.00036-14.


An interesting concept in the organization of cellular membranes is the proposed existence of lipid rafts. Membranes of eukaryotic cells organize signal transduction proteins into membrane rafts or lipid rafts that are enriched in particular lipids such as cholesterol and are important for the correct functionality of diverse cellular processes. The assembly of lipid rafts in eukaryotes has been considered a fundamental step during the evolution of cellular complexity, suggesting that bacteria and archaea were organisms too simple to require such a sophisticated organization of their cellular membranes. However, it was recently discovered that bacteria organize many signal transduction, protein secretion, and transport processes in functional membrane microdomains, which are equivalent to the lipid rafts of eukaryotic cells. This review contains the most significant advances during the last 4 years in understanding the structural and biological role of lipid rafts in bacteria. Furthermore, this review shows a detailed description of a number of molecular and genetic approaches related to the discovery of bacterial lipid rafts as well as an overview of the group of tentative lipid-protein and protein-protein interactions that give consistency to these sophisticated signaling platforms. Additional data suggesting that lipid rafts are widely distributed in bacteria are presented in this review. Therefore, we discuss the available techniques and optimized protocols for the purification and analysis of raft-associated proteins in various bacterial species to aid in the study of bacterial lipid rafts in other laboratories that could be interested in this topic. Overall, the discovery of lipid rafts in bacteria reveals a new level of sophistication in signal transduction and membrane organization that was unexpected for bacteria and shows that bacteria are more complex than previously appreciated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / chemistry
  • Bacillus subtilis / metabolism
  • Bacillus subtilis / ultrastructure
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / ultrastructure*
  • Bacterial Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Membrane Microdomains* / chemistry
  • Membrane Microdomains* / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Microscopy
  • Protein Transport
  • Signal Transduction


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • flotillins