Non-specific lipid transfer proteins in plants: presenting new advances and an integrated functional analysis

J Exp Bot. 2015 Sep;66(19):5663-81. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erv313. Epub 2015 Jul 2.


Plant non-specific lipid-transfer proteins (nsLTPs) are small, basic proteins present in abundance in higher plants. They are involved in key processes of plant cytology, such as the stablization of membranes, cell wall organization, and signal transduction. nsLTPs are also known to play important roles in resistance to biotic and abiotic stress, and in plant growth and development, such as sexual reproduction, seed development and germination. The structures of plant nsLTPs contain an eight-cysteine residue conserved motif, linked by four disulfide bonds, and an internal hydrophobic cavity, which comprises the lipid-binding site. This structure endows stability and increases the ability to bind and/or carry hydrophobic molecules. There is growing interest in nsLTPs, due to their critical roles, resulting in the need for a comprehensive review of their form and function. Relevant topics include: nsLTP structure and biochemical features, their classification, identification, and characterization across species, sub-cellular localization, lipid binding and transfer ability, expression profiling, functionality, and evolution. We present advances, as well as limitations and trends, relating to the different topics of the nsLTP gene family. This review collates a large body of research pertaining to the role of nsLTPs across the plant kingdom, which has been integrated as an in depth functional analysis of this group of proteins as a whole, and their activities across multiple biochemical pathways, based on a large number of reports. This review will enhance our understanding of nsLTP activity in planta, prompting further work and insights into the roles of this multifaceted protein family in plants.

Keywords: Classification; evolution; gene expression; nsLTP; protein function; sub-cellular localization..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Plants / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • sterol carrier proteins