Metabolic energy is stored in cells primarily as triacylglycerols in lipid droplets (LDs), and LD dysregulation leads to metabolic diseases. The formation of monolayer-bound LDs from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) bilayer is poorly understood, but the ER protein seipin is essential to this process. In this study, we report a cryo-electron microscopy structure and functional characterization of Drosophila melanogaster seipin. The structure reveals a ring-shaped dodecamer with the luminal domain of each monomer resolved at ∼4.0 Å. Each luminal domain monomer exhibits two distinctive features: a hydrophobic helix (HH) positioned toward the ER bilayer and a β-sandwich domain with structural similarity to lipid-binding proteins. This structure and our functional testing in cells suggest a model in which seipin oligomers initially detect forming LDs in the ER via HHs and subsequently act as membrane anchors to enable lipid transfer and LD growth.
© 2018 Sui et al.