The Lipids of the Early Endosomes: Making Multimodality Work

Chembiochem. 2017 Jun 19;18(12):1053-1060. doi: 10.1002/cbic.201700046. Epub 2017 May 10.


Early endosomes are dynamic intracellular compartments that fuse with incoming endocytic carrier vesicles and associated cargoes from the plasma membrane. It has been long known that the chemical structures of lipids confer striking properties and rich biochemistry on bilayers. Although the organisational principles of the plasma membrane are relatively better understood, understanding endosomal membranes has been challenging. It has become increasingly apparent that endosomal membranes, because of their lipid compositions and interactions, use distinct lipid chemistries. We discuss the biochemical and biophysical phenomena in play at the early endosomal membrane. We focus on cholesterol, phosphoinositides, and phosphatidylserine and their clear roles in endosome functions. We discuss the various principles and mechanisms underpinning how these lipids are implicated at the functional level in the working of endosomes, and we summarise early endosomes as a multimodal organelle employing distinct lipid-specific mechanisms.

Keywords: cholesterol; endosomes; lipids; phosphoinositides; phospholipids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Endocytosis / genetics
  • Endosomes / metabolism*
  • Endosomes / ultrastructure
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Eukaryotic Cells / ultrastructure
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Microtubule Proteins / genetics
  • Microtubule Proteins / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositols / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Steroid / genetics
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transport Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Transport Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Microtubule Proteins
  • Phosphatidylinositols
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • oxysterol binding protein
  • Cholesterol
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins