Seipin transmembrane segments critically function in triglyceride nucleation and lipid droplet budding from the membrane

Elife. 2022 May 18:11:e75808. doi: 10.7554/eLife.75808.


Lipid droplets (LDs) are organelles formed in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to store triacylglycerol (TG) and sterol esters. The ER protein seipin is key for LD biogenesis. Seipin forms a cage-like structure, with each seipin monomer containing a conserved hydrophobic helix and two transmembrane (TM) segments. How the different parts of seipin function in TG nucleation and LD budding is poorly understood. Here, we utilized molecular dynamics simulations of human seipin, along with cell-based experiments, to study seipin's functions in protein-lipid interactions, lipid diffusion, and LD maturation. An all-atom simulation indicates that seipin TM segment residues and hydrophobic helices residues located in the phospholipid tail region of the bilayer attract TG. Simulating larger, growing LDs with coarse-grained models, we find that the seipin TM segments form a constricted neck structure to facilitate conversion of a flat oil lens into a budding LD. Using cell experiments and simulations, we also show that conserved, positively charged residues at the end of seipin's TM segments affect LD maturation. We propose a model in which seipin TM segments critically function in TG nucleation and LD growth.

Keywords: human; lipid droplets; molecular biophysics; molecular dynamics; seipin; structural biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Endoplasmic Reticulum* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Droplets* / metabolism
  • Membranes / metabolism
  • Phospholipids / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Phospholipids
  • Triglycerides