Posts Tagged ‘nuclear pores’

Summary of Cell Structure, Anatomic Correlates of Metabolic Function

Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP  


This chapter has been concerned with the subcellular ultrastructure of organelles, and importantly, their function.  There is no waste in the cell structure. The nucleus has the instructions necessary to carry out the cell’s functions.  In the Eukaryotic cell there is significant differentiation so that the cells are regulated for the needs that they uniquely carry out.  When there is disregulation, it leads to remodeling or to cell death.

Here I shall note some highlights of this chapter.

  1. In every aspect of cell function, proteins are involved embedded in the structure, for most efficient functioning.
  2. Metabolic regulation is dependent on pathways that are also linkages of proteins.
  3. Energy utilization is dependent on enzymatic reactions, often involving essential metal ions of high valence numbers, which facilitates covalent and anion binding, and has an essential role in allostericity.




Mitochondria range from 0.5 to 1.0 micrometer (μm) in diameter. These structures are sometimes described as “cellular power plants” because they generate most of the cell’s supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), used as a source of chemical energy. In addition to supplying cellular energy, mitochondria are involved in other tasks such as signaling, cellular differentiation, cell death, as well as the control of the cell cycle and cell growth. Mitochondria have been implicated in several human diseases, including mitochondrial disorders and cardiac dysfunction.

The number of mitochondria in a cell can vary widely by organism, tissue, and cell type. For instance, red blood cells have no mitochondria, whereas liver cells can have more than 2000. The organelle is composed of compartments that carry out specialized functions. These compartments or regions include the outer membrane, the intermembrane space, the inner membrane, and the cristae and matrix. Mitochondrial proteins vary depending on the tissue and the species. The mitochondrial proteome is thought to be dynamically regulated. Although most of a cell’s DNA is contained in the cell nucleus, the mitochondrion has its own independent genome. Further, its DNA shows substantial similarity to bacterial genomes.

In 1913 particles from extracts of guinea-pig liver were linked to respiration by Otto Heinrich Warburg, which he called “grana”. Warburg and Heinrich Otto Wieland, who had also postulated a similar particle mechanism, disagreed on the chemical nature of the respiration. It was not until 1925 when David Keilin discovered cytochromes that the respiratory chain was described.  In 1939, experiments using minced muscle cells demonstrated that one oxygen atom can form two adenosine triphosphate molecules, and, in 1941, the concept of phosphate bonds being a form of energy in cellular metabolism was developed by Fritz Albert Lipmann. In the following years, the mechanism behind cellular respiration was further elaborated, although its link to the mitochondria was not known. The introduction of tissue fractionation by Albert Claude allowed mitochondria to be isolated from other cell fractions and biochemical analysis to be conducted on them alone. In 1946, he concluded that cytochrome oxidase and other enzymes responsible for the respiratory chain were isolated to the mitchondria.

The first high-resolution micrographs appeared in 1952, replacing the Janus Green stains as the preferred way of visualising the mitochondria. This led to a more detailed analysis of the structure of the mitochondria, including confirmation that they were surrounded by a membrane. It also showed a second membrane inside the mitochondria that folded up in ridges dividing up the inner chamber and that the size and shape of the mitochondria varied from cell to cell.  In 1967, it was discovered that mitochondria contained ribosomes. In 1968, methods were developed for mapping the mitochondrial genes, with the genetic and physical map of yeast mitochondria being completed in 1976.

A mitochondrion contains outer and inner membranes composed of phospholipid bilayers and proteins. The two membranes have different properties. Because of this double-membraned organization, there are five distinct parts to a mitochondrion. They are:

  1. the outer mitochondrial membrane,
  2. the intermembrane space (the space between the outer and inner membranes),
  3. the inner mitochondrial membrane,
  4. the cristae space (formed by infoldings of the inner membrane), and
  5. the matrix (space within the inner membrane).

Mitochondria stripped of their outer membrane are called mitoplasts.



Mitochondrion ultrastructure (interactive diagram) A mitochondrion has a double membrane; the inner one contains its chemiosmotic apparatus and has deep grooves which increase its surface area. While commonly depicted as an “orange sausage with a blob inside of it” (like it is here), mitochondria can take many shapes and their intermembrane space is quite thin.

The intermembrane space is the space between the outer membrane and the inner membrane. It is also known as perimitochondrial space. Because the outer membrane is freely permeable to small molecules, the concentrations of small molecules such as ions and sugars in the intermembrane space is the same as the cytosol. However, large proteins must have a specific signaling sequence to be transported across the outer membrane, so the protein composition of this space is different from the protein composition of the cytosol. One protein that is localized to the intermembrane space in this way is cytochrome c.

The inner mitochondrial membrane contains proteins with five types of functions:

  1. Those that perform the redox reactions of oxidative phosphorylation
  2. ATP synthase, which generates ATP in the matrix
  3. Specific transport proteins that regulate metabolite passage into and out of the matrix
  4. Protein import machinery.
  5. Mitochondria fusion and fission protein.

It contains more than 151 different polypeptides, and has a very high protein-to-phospholipid ratio (more than 3:1 by weight, which is about 1 protein for 15 phospholipids). The inner membrane is home to around 1/5 of the total protein in a mitochondrion. In addition, the inner membrane is rich in an unusual phospholipid, cardiolipin. This phospholipid was originally discovered in cow hearts in 1942, and is usually characteristic of mitochondrial and bacterial plasma membranes. Cardiolipin contains four fatty acids rather than two, and may help to make the inner membrane impermeable. Unlike the outer membrane, the inner membrane doesn’t contain porins, and is highly impermeable to all molecules. Almost all ions and molecules require special membrane transporters to enter or exit the matrix. Proteins are ferried into the matrix via the translocase of the inner membrane (TIM) complex or via Oxa1. In addition, there is a membrane potential across the inner membrane, formed by the action of the enzymes of the electron transport chain.

The inner mitochondrial membrane is compartmentalized into numerous cristae, which expand the surface area of the inner mitochondrial membrane, enhancing its ability to produce ATP. For typical liver mitochondria, the area of the inner membrane is about five times as large as the outer membrane. This ratio is variable and mitochondria from cells that have a greater demand for ATP, such as muscle cells, contain even more cristae. These folds are studded with small round bodies known as F1 particles or oxysomes. These are not simple random folds but rather invaginations of the inner membrane, which can affect overall chemiosmotic function. One recent mathematical modeling study has suggested that the optical properties of the cristae in filamentous mitochondria may affect the generation and propagation of light within the tissue.



The matrix is the space enclosed by the inner membrane. It contains about 2/3 of the total protein in a mitochondrion. The matrix is important in thThe MAM is enriched in enzymes involved in lipid biosynthesis, such as phosphatidylserine synthase on the ER face and phosphatidylserine decarboxylase on the mitochondrial face.[28][29] Because mitochondria are dynamic organelles constantly undergoing fission and fusion events, they require a constant and well-regulated supply of phospholipids for membrane integrity.[30][31] But mitochondria are not only a destination for the phospholipids they finish synthesis of; rather, this organelle also plays a role in inter-organelle trafficking of the intermediates and products of phospholipid biosynthetic pathways, ceramide and cholesterol metabolism, and glycosphingolipid anabolisme production of ATP with the aid of the ATP synthase contained in the inner membrane. The matrix contains a highly concentrated mixture of hundreds of enzymes, special mitochondrial ribosomes, tRNA, and several copies of the mitochondrial DNA genome. Of the enzymes, the major functions include oxidation of pyruvate and fatty acids, and the citric acid cycle.

Purified MAM from subcellular fractionation has shown to be enriched in enzymes involved in phospholipid exchange, in addition to channels associated with Ca2+ signaling. The mitochondria-associated ER membrane (MAM) is another structural element that is increasingly recognized for its critical role in cellular physiology and homeostasis. Once considered a technical snag in cell fractionation techniques, the alleged ER vesicle contaminants that invariably appeared in the mitochondrial fraction have been re-identified as membranous structures derived from the MAM—the interface between mitochondria and the ER. Physical coupling between these two organelles had previously been observed in electron micrographs and has more recently been probed with fluorescence microscopy. Such studies estimate that at the MAM, which may comprise up to 20% of the mitochondrial outer membrane, the ER and mitochondria are separated by a mere 10–25 nm and held together by protein tethering complexes.

Such trafficking capacity depends on the MAM, which has been shown to facilitate transfer of lipid intermediates between organelles. In contrast to the standard vesicular mechanism of lipid transfer, evidence indicates that the physical proximity of the ER and mitochondrial membranes at the MAM allows for lipid flipping between opposed bilayers. Despite this unusual and seemingly energetically unfavorable mechanism, such transport does not require ATP. Instead, in yeast, it has been shown to be dependent on a multiprotein tethering structure termed the ER-mitochondria encounter structure, or ERMES, although it remains unclear whether this structure directly mediates lipid transfer or is required to keep the membranes in sufficiently close proximity to lower the energy barrier for lipid flipping.

A critical role for the ER in calcium signaling was acknowledged before such a role for the mitochondria was widely accepted, in part because the low affinity of Ca2+ channels localized to the outer mitochondrial membrane seemed to fly in the face of this organelle’s purported responsiveness to changes in intracellular Ca2+ flux. But the presence of the MAM resolves this apparent contradiction: the close physical association between the two organelles results in Ca2+ microdomains at contact points that facilitate efficient Ca2+ transmission from the ER to the mitochondria. Transmission occurs in response to so-called “Ca2+ puffs” generated by spontaneous clustering and activation of IP3R, a canonical ER membrane Ca2+ channel.

The properties of the Ca2+ pump SERCA and the channel IP3R present on the ER membrane facilitate feedback regulation coordinated by MAM function. In particular, clearance of Ca2+ by the MAM allows for spatio-temporal patterning of Ca2+ signaling because Ca2+ alters IP3R activity in a biphasic manner. SERCA is likewise affected by mitochondrial feedback: uptake of Ca2+ by the MAM stimulates ATP production, thus providing energy that enables SERCA to reload the ER with Ca2+ for continued Ca2+ efflux at the MAM. Thus, the MAM is not a passive buffer for Ca2+ puffs; rather it helps modulate further Ca2+ signaling through feedback loops that affect ER dynamics.

Regulating ER release of Ca2+ at the MAM is especially critical because only a certain window of Ca2+ uptake sustains the mitochondria, and consequently the cell, at homeostasis. Sufficient intraorganelle Ca2+ signaling is required to stimulate metabolism by activating dehydrogenase enzymes critical to flux through the citric acid cycle. However, once Ca2+ signaling in the mitochondria passes a certain threshold, it stimulates the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis in part by collapsing the mitochondrial membrane potential required for metabolism.  Studies examining the role of pro- and anti-apoptotic factors support this model; for example, the anti-apoptotic factor Bcl-2 has been shown to interact with IP3Rs to reduce Ca2+ filling of the ER, leading to reduced efflux at the MAM and preventing collapse of the mitochondrial membrane potential post-apoptotic stimuli. Given the need for such fine regulation of Ca2+ signaling, it is perhaps unsurprising that dysregulated mitochondrial Ca2+ has been implicated in several neurodegenerative diseases, while the catalogue of tumor suppressors includes a few that are enriched at the MAM.


Lysosome and Apoptosis

Role of autophagy in cancer

R Mathew, V Karantza-Wadsworth & E White

Nature Reviews Cancer 7, 961-967 (Dec 2007) |

Autophagy is a cellular degradation pathway for the clearance of damaged or superfluous proteins and organelles. The recycling of these intracellular constituents also serves as an alternative energy source during periods of metabolic stress to maintain homeostasis and viability. In tumour cells with defects in apoptosis, autophagy allows prolonged survival. Paradoxically, autophagy defects are associated with increased tumorigenesis, but the mechanism behind this has not been determined. Recent evidence suggests that autophagy provides a protective function to limit tumour necrosis and inflammation, and to mitigate genome damage in tumour cells in response to metabolic stress.

Sustained Activation of mTORC1 in Skeletal Muscle Inhibits Constitutive and Starvation-Induced Autophagy and Causes a Severe, Late-Onset Myopathy

P Castets, S Lin, N Rion, S Di Fulvio, et al.
cell-metabolism 7 May, 2013; 17(5): p731–744

  • mTORC1 inhibition is required for constitutive and starvation-induced autophagy
  • Sustained activation of mTORC1 causes a severe myopathy due to autophagy impairment
  • TSC1 depletion is sufficient to activate mTORC1 irrespective of other stimuli
  • mTORC1 inactivation is sufficient to trigger LC3 lipidation

Autophagy is a catabolic process that ensures homeostatic cell clearance and is deregulated in a growing number of myopathological conditions. Although FoxO3 was shown to promote the expression of autophagy-related genes in skeletal muscle, the mechanisms triggering autophagy are unclear. We show that TSC1-deficient mice (TSCmKO), characterized by sustained activation of mTORC1, develop a late-onset myopathy related to impaired autophagy. In young TSCmKO mice,

  • constitutive and starvation-induced autophagy is blocked at the induction steps via
  • mTORC1-mediated inhibition of Ulk1, despite FoxO3 activation.

Rapamycin is sufficient to restore autophagy in TSCmKO mice and

  • improves the muscle phenotype of old mutant mice.

Inversely, abrogation of mTORC1 signaling by

  • depletion of raptor induces autophagy regardless of FoxO inhibition.

Thus, mTORC1 is the dominant regulator of autophagy induction in skeletal muscle and

  • ensures a tight coordination of metabolic pathways.

These findings may open interesting avenues for therapeutic strategies directed toward autophagy-related muscle diseases.

Histone deacetylases 1 and 2 regulate autophagy flux and skeletal muscle homeostasis in mice

Viviana Moresi, et al.   PNAS Jan 31, 2012; 109(5): 1649-1654

HDAC1 activates FoxO and is both sufficient and required for skeletal muscle atrophy

Beharry, PB. Sandesara, BM. Roberts, et al.
J. Cell Sci. Apr 2014 127 (7) 1441-1453​jcs.136390

The Forkhead box O (FoxO) transcription factors are activated, and necessary for the muscle atrophy, in several pathophysiological conditions, including muscle disuse and cancer cachexia. However, the mechanisms that lead to FoxO activation are not well defined. Recent data from our laboratory and others indicate that

  • the activity of FoxO is repressed under basal conditions via reversible lysine acetylation,
  • which becomes compromised during catabolic conditions.

Therefore, we aimed to determine how histone deacetylase (HDAC) proteins contribute to

  • activation of FoxO and induction of the muscle atrophy program.

Through the use of various pharmacological inhibitors to block HDAC activity, we demonstrate that

  • class I HDACs are key regulators of FoxO and the muscle-atrophy program
  • during both nutrient deprivation and skeletal muscle disuse.

Furthermore, we demonstrate, through the use of wild-type and dominant-negative HDAC1 expression plasmids,

  • that HDAC1 is sufficient to activate FoxO and induce muscle fiber atrophy in vivo and
  • is necessary for the atrophy of muscle fibers that is associated with muscle disuse.

The ability of HDAC1 to cause muscle atrophy required its deacetylase activity and

  • was linked to the induction of several atrophy genes by HDAC1,
  • including atrogin-1, which required deacetylation of FoxO3a.

Moreover, pharmacological inhibition of class I HDACs during muscle disuse, using MS-275,

  • significantly attenuated both disuse muscle fiber atrophy and contractile dysfunction.

Together, these data solidify the importance of class I HDACs in the muscle atrophy program and

  • indicate that class I HDAC inhibitors are feasible countermeasures to impede muscle atrophy and weakness.

Autophagy and thyroid carcinogenesis: genetic and epigenetic links
F Morani, R Titone, L Pagano, et al.  Endocr Relat Cancer Feb 1, 2014 21 R13-R29

Autophagy is a vesicular process for the lysosomal degradation of protein aggregates and

  • of damaged or redundant organelles.

Autophagy plays an important role in cell homeostasis, and there is evidence that

  • this process is dysregulated in cancer cells.

Recent in vitro preclinical studies have indicated that autophagy is

  • involved in the cytotoxic response to chemotherapeutics in thyroid cancer cells.

Indeed, several oncogenes and oncosuppressor genes implicated in thyroid carcinogenesis

  • also play a role in the regulation of autophagy.

In addition, some epigenetic modulators involved in thyroid carcinogenesis also influence autophagy. In this review, we highlight the genetic and epigenetic factors that

  • mechanistically link thyroid carcinogenesis and autophagy, thus substantiating the rationale for
  • an autophagy-targeted therapy of aggressive and radio-chemo-resistant thyroid cancers.

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Cytoskeleton and Cell Membrane Physiology


Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP




early evolution of lipid membranes and the three domains of life

early evolution of lipid membranes and the three domains of life

Definition and Function

The cytoskeleton is a series of intercellular proteins that help a cell with

  1. shape,
  2. support, and
  3. movement.

Cytoskeleton has three main structural components:

  1. microfilaments,
  2. intermediate filaments, and
  3. movement

The cytoskeleton mediates movement by

  • helping the cell move in its environment and
  • mediating the movement of the cell’s components.

Thereby it provides an important structural framework for the cell –

  • the framework for the movement of organelles, contiguous with the cell membrane, around the cytoplasm. By the activity of
  • the network of protein microfilaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules.

The structural framework supports cell function as follows:

Cell shape. For cells without cell walls, the cytoskeleton determines the shape of the cell. This is one of the functions of the intermediate filaments.

Cell movement. The dynamic collection of microfilaments and microtubles can be continually in the process of assembly and disassembly, resulting in forces that move the cell. There can also be sliding motions of these structures. Audesirk and Audesirk give examples of white blood cells “crawling” and the migration and shape changes of cells during the development of multicellular organisms.

Organelle movement. Microtubules and microfilaments can help move organelles from place to place in the cell. In endocytosis a vesicle formed engulfs a particle abutting the cell. Microfilaments then attach to the vesicle and pull it into the cell. Much of the complex synthesis and distribution function of the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi complex makes use of transport vescicles,  associated with the cytoskeleton.

Cell division. During cell division, microtubules accomplish the movement of the chromosones to the daughter nucleus. Also, a ring of microfilaments helps divide two developing cells by constricting the central region between the cells (fission).

Hickman, et al. Ch 4 Hickman, Cleveland P., Roberts, Larry S., and Larson, Allan, Integrated Principles of Zoology, 9th. Ed., Wm C. Brown, 1995.
Audesirk & Audesirk Ch 6 Audesirk, Teresa and Audesirk, Gerald, Biology, Life on Earth, 5th Ed., Prentice-Hall, 1999.

Intermediate filaments are 8-12 nanometers in diameter and are twisted together in a cord shape. They are composed of keratin and keratin-like proteins.  These filaments are tough and resist tension.

Microtubules are composed of alpha and beta tubulin that form long, hollow cylinders.  These are fairly strong proteins and are the largest component of cytoskeleton at 25 nanometers. Tubular monomers can be lengthened or shortened from the positive end.

Microtubules have three different functions.

They make up the cell’s

  1. centriole
  2. the flagella and cilia of a cell, and
  3. they serve as “tracks” for transport vesicles to move along.

Key Points 


  1. help the cell resist compression,
  2. provide a track along which vesicles can move throughout the cell, and
  3. are the components of cilia and flagella.

Cilia and flagella are hair-like structures that

  1. assist with locomotion in some cells, as well as
  2. line various structures to trap particles.

The structures of cilia and flagella are a “9+2 array,” meaning that

  • a ring of nine microtubules is surrounded by two more microtubules.

Microtubules attach to replicated chromosomes

  • during cell division and
  • pull them apart to opposite ends of the pole,
  • allowing the cell to divide with a complete set of chromosomes in each daughter cell.

Microtubules are the largest element of the cytoskeleton.

The walls of the microtubule are made of

  • polymerized dimers of α-tubulin and β-tubulin, two globular proteins.

With a diameter of about 25 nm, microtubules are the widest components of the cytoskeleton.

They help the cell

  • resist compression,
  • provide a track along which vesicles move through the cell, and
  • pull replicated chromosomes to opposite ends of a dividing cell.

Like microfilaments, microtubules can dissolve and reform quickly.

Microtubules are also the structural elements of flagella, cilia, and centrioles (the latter are the two perpendicular bodies of the centrosome). In animal cells, the centrosome is the microtubule-organizing center. In eukaryotic cells, flagella and cilia are quite different structurally from their counterparts in prokaryotes.

Intermediate Filaments

Intermediate filaments (IFs) are cytoskeletal components found in animal cells. They are composed of a family of related proteins sharing common structural and sequence features.

epithelial cells

epithelial cells

flagella and cilia share a common structural arrangement of microtubules called a “9 + 2 array.” This is an appropriate name because a single flagellum or cilium is made of a ring of nine microtubule doublets surrounding a single microtubule doublet in the center.

9+2 array

9+2 array

The `Spectraplakins’: cytoskeletal giants with characteristics of both spectrin and plakin families

Katja Röper, Stephen L. Gregory and Nicholas H. Brown
J Cell Sci Nov 15, 2002; 115: 4215-4225​jcs.00157





The sequential endosymbiotic origins of eukaryotes: Compared to bacteria and archaea, the typical eukaryotic cell is much more structurally complex.

While the prokaryotes have a rigid cell wall, the ancestral eukaryote appears to have been wall-less (the walls of plant cells appear to represent a adaptation, and are not homologous to prokaryotic cell walls).

In addition to a nucleus (wherein the cell’s DNA is located, and which we will return to in the next section), there are cytoskeletal structures, including distinctive flagella (quite different from those found in prokaryotes), an active (motile) plasma membrane, capable of engulfing other cells, and multiple internal membrane systems. (A more complete description of cell structure is beyond this version of Biofundamentals).

In aerobic bacteria and cyanobacteria, the electron transport chains associated with ATP synthesis (through either photosynthesis or aerobic respiration) located within the plasma membrane (and in the case of cyanobacteria, internal membrane systems as well).

The same processes (aerobic respiration and photosynthesis) occur within eukaryotic cells. Animals have aerobic respiration, while plants have both).

However, these processes do not occur on the plasma membrane, but rather within distinct cytoplasmic organelles: mitochondria for aerobic respiration and chloroplasts for photosynthesis. All eukaryotic cells have mitochondria, plants (which are eukaryotic) have both mitochondria and chloroplasts.

An intriguing evolutionary question was, are these processes related, that is, are the processes of aerobic respiration and photosynthesis found in eukaryotes homologous to the processes found in bacteria and cyanobacteria, or did they originate independently.

The path to understanding that homologous nature of these processes began with studies of cell structure.

spectrin protein superfamily.large

spectrin protein superfamily.large

The role of secreted factors and extracellular matrix

The role of secreted factors and extracellular matrix

Focal Adhesions: Transmembrane Junctions Between the Extracellular Matrix and the Cytoskeleton

K Burridge, K Fath, T Kelly, G Nuckolls, and C Turner
Ann Rev Cell Biol Nov 1988; 4: 487-525

the extracellular matrix (ECM) is a collection of extracellular molecules secreted by cells that

  • provides structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells.[1]

Because multicellularity evolved independently in different multicellular lineages, the composition of ECM varies between multicellular structures; however,

  • cell adhesion,
  • cell-to-cell communication and
  • differentiation

are common functions of the ECM.[2]

The animal extracellular matrix includes

  • the interstitial matrix and
  • the basement membrane.[3]

Interstitial matrix is present between various animal cells (i.e., in the intercellular spaces).

Gels of polysaccharides and fibrous proteins

  • fill the interstitial space and act as
  • a compression buffer against the stress placed on the ECM.[4]

Basement membranes are sheet-like depositions of ECM on which various epithelial cells rest.

The Extracellular Matrix (ECM)

Mechanical support to tissues

Organization of cells into tissues

  1. Activation of signaling pathways (cell growth, proliferation; development); examples:
  2. TGF-β, integrins
  3. specialized roles (tendon, bone; cartilage; cell movement during development; basal lamina in epithelia)


  1. proteoglycans
  2. collagen fibers (mechanical strength)
  3. multiadhesive matrix proteins (linking cell surface receptors to the (ECM)

Integrin connects the extracellular matrix with the actin cytoskeleton inside the cell

Fibronectin Integrin

Fibronectin Integrin

Continuous membrane-cytoskeleton adhesion requires continuous accommodation to lipid and cytoskeleton dynamics.

Sheetz MP, Sable JE, Döbereiner HG.
Annu Rev Biophys Struct Biomol. 2006;35:417-34.

The plasma membrane of most animal cells conforms to the cytoskeleton and only occasionally separates to form blebs. Previous studies indicated that

  • many weak interactions between cytoskeleton and the lipid bilayer
  • kept the surfaces together to counteract the normal outward pressure of cytoplasm.

Either the loss of adhesion strength or the formation of gaps in the cytoskeleton enables the pressure to form blebs. Membrane-associated cytoskeleton proteins, such as spectrin and filamin, can

  • control the movement and aggregation of membrane proteins and lipids,
    e.g., phosphoinositol phospholipids (PIPs), as well as blebbing.

At the same time, lipids (particularly PIPs) and membrane proteins affect

  • cytoskeleton and signaling dynamics.

We consider here the roles of the major phosphatidylinositol-4,5-diphosphate (PIP2) binding protein, MARCKS, and PIP2 levels in controlling cytoskeleton dynamics. Further understanding of dynamics will provide important clues about how membrane-cytoskeleton adhesion rapidly adjusts to cytoskeleton and membrane dynamics.

Interaction of membrane/lipid rafts with the cytoskeleton: impact on signaling and function: membrane/lipid rafts, mediators of cytoskeletal arrangement and cell signaling.

Head BP, Patel HH, Insel PA   Epub 2013 Jul 27.
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2014 Feb;1838(2):532-45.

The plasma membrane in eukaryotic cells contains microdomains that are

  • enriched in certain glycosphingolipids, gangliosides, and sterols (such as cholesterol) to form membrane/lipid rafts (MLR).

These regions exist as caveolae, morphologically observable flask-like invaginations, or as a less easily detectable planar form. MLR are scaffolds for many molecular entities, including

  • signaling receptors and ion channels that
  • communicate extracellular stimuli to the intracellular milieu.

Much evidence indicates that this organization and/or the clustering of MLR into more active signaling platforms

  • depends upon interactions with and dynamic rearrangement of the cytoskeleton.

Several cytoskeletal components and binding partners, as well as enzymes that regulate the cytoskeleton, localize to MLR and help

  • regulate lateral diffusion of membrane proteins and lipids in response to extracellular events
    (e.g., receptor activation, shear stress, electrical conductance, and nutrient demand).

MLR regulate

  • cellular polarity,
  • adherence to the extracellular matrix,
  • signaling events (including ones that affect growth and migration), and
  • are sites of cellular entry of certain pathogens, toxins and nanoparticles.

The dynamic interaction between MLR and the underlying cytoskeleton thus regulates many facets of the function of eukaryotic cells and their adaptation to changing environments. Here, we review general features of MLR and caveolae and their role in several aspects of cellular function, including

  • polarity of endothelial and epithelial cells,
  • cell migration,
  • mechanotransduction,
  • lymphocyte activation,
  • neuronal growth and signaling, and
  • a variety of disease settings.

This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Reciprocal influences between cell cytoskeleton and membrane channels, receptors and transporters. Guest Editor: Jean Claude Hervé.

Cell control by membrane–cytoskeleton adhesion

Michael P. Sheetz
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 2, 392-396 (May 2001) | http://dx.doi.doi:/10.1038/35073095

The rates of mechanochemical processes, such as endocytosis, membrane extension and membrane resealing after cell wounding, are known to be controlled biochemically, through interaction with regulatory proteins. Here, I propose that these rates are also controlled physically, through an apparently continuous adhesion between plasma membrane lipids and cytoskeletal proteins.

Lipid Rafts, Signalling and the Cytoskeleton

Lipid rafts are specialised membrane domains enriched in certain lipids cholesterol and proteins. The existence of lipid rafts was first hypothesised in 1988 (Simons & van Meer, 1988; Simon & Ikonen, 1997), but what we know as “caveolae” were first observed  much earlier (Palade, 1953; Yamada, 1955).  Caveolae are flask shaped invaginations on the cell surface that are a type of membrane raft, these were named “caveolae intracellulare” (Yamada, 1955).  After a long argument (Jacobson & Dietrich, 1999), most now consider that these rafts actually exist, however, there is some confusion surrounding the classification of these rafts. It presently seems that there could be three types; caveolae, glycosphingolipid enriched membranes (GEM), and polyphospho inositol rich rafts. It may also be that there are inside rafts (PIP2 rich and caveolae) and outside rafts (GEM).

The fatty-acid chains of lipids within the rafts tend to be extended and so more tightly packed, creating domains with higher order. It is therefore thought that  rafts exist in a separate ordered phase that floats in a sea of poorly ordered lipids.  Glycosphingolipids, and other lipids with long, straight acyl chains are preferentially incorporated into the rafts.

Caveolae are similar in composition to GEMs that lack caveolae and in fact cells that lack caveolin-1 do not have morphologically identifiable caveolae but instead have extra GEM.  These cells can then be transfected with caveolin-1 cDNA and the caveolae then appear.  This suggests that GEM are merely caveolae without caveolin-1.  Caveolin-1 is a 21kDa integral membrane protein that binds cholesterol (Maruta et al, 1995). In cells lacking caveolin-1, caveolin-2 is synthesised but remains in the Golgi.  Caveolin 1 and 2 colocalise when expressed in the same cells and they may form hetero-dimers (Scherer et al, 1997). Caveolin-3 is expressed in muscle where it forms muscle-type caveolae.  Caveolin-3 is involved in certain types of muscular dystrophy (Galbiati et al, ). A slightly confusing finding is that caveolae are the reported site of integrin signalling ().  It is difficult to imagine integrins being available in the depths of membrane invaginations for binding extra-cellular ligands.

The function of rafts

Many functions have been attributed to rafts, from cholesterol transport, endocytosis and signal transduction.  The later is almost certainly the case. It has been suggested that the primary function of caveolae was in constitutive endocytic trafficking but recent data show that this is not the case, instead caveolae are very stable regions of membranes that are not involved in  endocytosis (Thompsen et al, 2002).

lipid raft

lipid raft

Rafts and the Cytoskeleton

Many actin binding proteins are known to bind to polyphosphoinositides and to be regulated by them (see PI and ABPs), by a series of protein domains such as PH, PX and ENTH (see Domains).  It is consequently scarcely surprising that some ABPs are suggested to link the actin cytoskeleton and PIP2-enriched rafts. One of these is gelsolin, a Ca2+, pH and polyphosphoinositide regulated actin capping and severing protein (see Gelsolin Family), that partitions into rafts isolated biochemically from brain (Fanatsu et al, 2000).

GEMs too are suggested to link to the actin cytoskeleton through ABPs particularly ERM proteins through EBP50, a protein that binds members of the ERM proteins through the ERM C-terminus (Brdickova et al, 2001).


Brdickova, N., Brdicka, T., Andrea, L., Spicka, J., Angelisova, P., Milgram, S. L. & Horejsi, V. (2001) Interaction between two adaptor proteins, PAG and EBP50: a possible link between membrane rafts and actin cytoskeleton.  FEBS letters. 507, 133-136.

Cary, L. A. & Cooper, J. A. (2000) Molecular switches in lipid rafts.  Nature. 404, 945-947.

Czarny, M., Fiucci, G., Lavie, Y., Banno, Y., Nozawa, Y. & Liscovitch, M. (2000) Phospholipase D2: functional interaction with caveolin in low-density membrane microdomains.,  FEBS letters.

Foger, N., Funatsu, N., Kumanogoh, H., Sokawa, Y. & Maekawa, S. (2000) Identification of gelsolin as an actin regulatory component in a Triton insoluble low density fraction (raft) of newborn bovine brain.  Neuroscience Research. 36, 311-317.

Galbiati, F., Engelman, J. A., Volonte, D., Zhang, X. L., Minetti, C., Li, M., Hou jr, H., Kneitz, B., Edelman, W. & Lisanti, M. P. (2001) Caveolin-3 null mice show a loss of caveolae, changes in the microdomain distribution of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex, and T-tubule abnormalities.  J. Biol.Chem. 276, 21425-21433.

…  (more)

centralpore-small  Gating and Ion Conductivity

centralpore-small Gating and Ion Conductivity

Interaction of epithelial ion channels with the actin-based cytoskeleton.

Mazzochi C, Benos DJ, Smith PR.
Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2006 Dec;291(6):F1113-22. Epub 2006 Aug 22

The interaction of ion channels with the actin-based cytoskeleton in epithelial cells

  • not only maintains the polarized expression of ion channels within specific membrane domains,
  • it also functions in the intracellular trafficking and regulation of channel activity.

Initial evidence supporting an interaction between

  • epithelial ion channels and the
  • actin-based cytoskeleton

came from patch-clamp studies of the effects of cytochalasins on channel activity. Cytochalasins were shown to

  • either activate or inactivate epithelial ion channels.

An interaction between

  • the actin-based cytoskeleton and epithelial ion channels

was further supported by the fact that the addition of monomeric or filamentous actin to excised patches had an effect on channel activity comparable to that of cytochalasins. Through the recent application of molecular and proteomic approaches, we now know that

  • the interactions between epithelial ion channels and actin can either be direct or indirect,
  • the latter being mediated through scaffolding or actin-binding proteins
  • that serve as links between the channels and the actin-based cytoskeleton.

This review discusses recent advances in our understanding of the interactions between epithelial ion channels and the actin-based cytoskeleton, and the roles these interactions play in regulating the cell surface expression, activity, and intracellular trafficking of epithelial ion channels.

epithelial ion channels

epithelial ion channels

Actin cytoskeleton regulates ion channel activity in retinal neurons.

Maguire G, Connaughton V, Prat AG, Jackson GR Jr, Cantiello HF.
Neuroreport. 1998 Mar 9;9(4):665-70

The actin cytoskeleton is an important contributor to the integrity of cellular shape and responses in neurons. However, the molecular mechanisms associated with functional interactions between the actin cytoskeleton and neuronal ion channels are largely unknown. Whole-cell and single channel recording techniques were thus applied to identified retinal bipolar neurons of the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) to assess the role of acute changes in actin-based cytoskeleton dynamics in the regulation of voltage-gated ion channels. Disruption of endogenous actin filaments after brief treatment (20-30 min) with cytochalasin D (CD) activated voltage-gated K+ currents in bipolar cells, which were largely prevented by intracellular perfusion with the actin filament-stabilizer agent, phalloidin. Either CD treatment under cell-attached conditions or direct addition of actin to excised, inside-out patches of bipolar cells activated and/or increased single K+ channels. Thus, acute changes in actin-based cytoskeleton dynamics regulate voltage-gated ion channel activity in bipolar cells.

Cytoskeletal Basis of Ion Channel Function in Cardiac Muscle

Matteo Vatta, Ph.D1,2 and Georgine Faulkner, Ph.D3

The publisher’s final edited version of this article is available at Future Cardiol

The heart is a force-generating organ that responds to self-generated electrical stimuli from specialized cardiomyocytes. This function is modulated by sympathetic and parasympathetic activity.

In order to contract and accommodate the repetitive morphological changes induced by the cardiac cycle,

  • cardiomyocytes depend on their highly evolved and specialized cytoskeletal apparatus.

Defects in components of the cytoskeleton, in the long term, affect

  • the ability of the cell to compensate at
  • both functional and structural levels.

In addition to the structural remodeling, the myocardium becomes

  • increasingly susceptible to altered electrical activity leading to arrhythmogenesis.

The development of arrhythmias secondary to structural remodeling defects has been noted, although the detailed molecular mechanisms are still elusive. Here I will review the current knowledge of the molecular and functional relationships between the cytoskeleton and ion channels and, I will discuss the future impact of new data on molecular cardiology research and clinical practice. 

Stretch-activated ion channel

Stretch-activated or stretch-gated ion channels are

  • ion channels which open their pores in response to
  • mechanical deformation of a neuron’s plasma membrane.

[Also see mechanosensitive ion channels and mechanosensitive channels, with which they may be synonymous]. Opening of the ion channels

  • depolarizes the afferent neuron producing an action potential with sufficient depolarization.[1]

Channels open in response to two different mechanisms: the prokaryotic model and the mammalian hair cell model.[2][3] Stretch-activated ion channels have been shown to detect vibration, pressure, stretch, touch, sounds, tastes, smell, heat, volume, and vision.[4][5][6] Stretch-activated ion channels have been categorized into

three distinct “superfamilies”:

  1. the ENaC/DEG family,
  2. the TRP family, and
  3. the K1 selective family.

These channels are involved with bodily functions such as blood pressure regulation.[7] They are shown to be associated with many cardiovascular diseases.[3] Stretch-activated channels were first observed in chick skeletal muscles by Falguni Guharay and Frederick Sachs in 1983 and the results were published in 1984.[8] Since then stretch-activated channels have been found in cells from bacteria to humans as well as plants.

Mechanosensitivity of cell membranes. Ion channels, lipid matrix and cytoskeleton.

Petrov AG, Usherwood PN.
Eur Biophys J. 1994;23(1):1-19

Physical and biophysical mechanisms of mechano-sensitivity of cell membranes are reviewed. The possible roles of

  • the lipid matrix and of
  • the cytoskeleton in membrane mechanoreception

are discussed. Techniques for generation of static strains and dynamic curvatures of membrane patches are considered. A unified model for

  • stress-activated and stress-inactivated ion channels

under static strains is described. A review of work on

  • stress-sensitive pores in lipid-peptide model membranes

is presented. The possible role of flexoelectricity in mechano-electric transduction, e.g. in auditory receptors is discussed. Studies of

  • flexoelectricity in model lipid membranes, lipid-peptide membranes and natural membranes containing ion channels

are reviewed. Finally, possible applications in molecular electronics of mechanosensors employing some of the recognized principles of mechano-electric transduction in natural membranes are discussed.Marhaba, R. & Zoller, M. (2001) Involvement of CD44 in cytoskeleton rearrangement and raft reorganization in T cells.  J.Cell Sci. 114, 1169-1178.

FIGURE 2 | The transient pore model.

peroxisomal matrix protein

peroxisomal matrix protein

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Ralf Erdmann & Wolfgang Schliebs
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 6, 738-742 (September 2005)

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model
The transient pore model

The peroxisomal import receptor peroxin-5 (Pex5) recognizes peroxisomal targeting signal-1 (PTS1)-containing cargo proteins in the cytosol. It then moves to the peroxisome where it inserts into the peroxisomal membrane to become an integral part of the protein-import apparatus. Pex14 and/or Pex13, which are associated with Pex17, are proposed to be involved in tethering the receptor to the membrane and in the assembly, stabilization and rearrangement of the translocon. Cargo release into the peroxisomal matrix is thought to be initiated by intraperoxisomal factors — for example, the competitive binding of the intraperoxisomal Pex8, which also has a PTS1. The disassembly and recycling of Pex5 is triggered by a cascade of protein–protein interactions at the peroxisomal membrane that results in the Pex1-, Pex6-driven, ATP-dependent dislocation of Pex5 from the peroxisomal membrane to the cytosol. Pex1 and Pex6 are AAA+ (ATPases associated with a variety of cellular activities) peroxins that are associated with the peroxisome membrane through Pex15 in yeast or its orthologue PEX26 in mammals. Pex4, which is membrane-anchored through Pex22, is a member of the E2 family of ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, and Pex2, Pex10 and Pex12 contain the RING-finger motif that is a characteristic element of E3 ubiquitin ligases. Mono- or di-ubiquitylation are reversible steps that seem to be required for the efficient recycling of import receptors, whereas polyubiquitylation might signal the proteasome-dependent degradation of receptors when the physiological dislocation of receptors is blocked. Ub, ubiquitin.

Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 6, 738-742 (September 2005) |


peroxisomal protein pore model

peroxisomal protein pore model

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Ralf Erdmann & Wolfgang Schliebs
Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 6, 738-742 (September 2005)

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Peroxin-13 (Pex13), Pex14 and Pex17 are constituents of the docking complex for cycling peroxisomal import receptors. Another protein assembly in the peroxisomal membrane comprises the RING-finger-motif-containing peroxins Pex2, Pex10 and Pex12. This motif is a characteristic element of E3 ubiquitin ligases, and this subcomplex is linked to the docking complex by Pex8, which is peripherally attached to the lumenal side of the peroxisomal membrane. Pex4 is a member of the E2 family of ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes and is anchored to the peroxisomal membrane through the cytosolic domain of Pex22. Pex1 and Pex6 are interacting AAA+ proteins (ATPases associated with a variety of cellular activities), which are attached to the membrane through binding to Pex15 in yeast or to its mammalian counterpart PEX26.

Peroxisomal matrix protein import: the transient pore model

Ralf Erdmann & Wolfgang Schliebs

Peroxisomes import folded, even oligomeric, proteins, which distinguishes the peroxisomal translocation machinery from the well-characterized translocons of other organelles. How proteins are transported across the peroxisomal membrane is unclear. Here, we propose a mechanistic model that conceptually divides the import process into three consecutive steps: the formation of a

  • translocation pore by the import receptor,
  • the ubiquitylation of the import receptors, and
  • pore disassembly/receptor recycling.


Masoud Naderi Maralani

Identification of the phytosphingosine metabolic pathway leading to odd-numbered fatty acids

The long-chain base ​phytosphingosine is a component of sphingolipids and exists in yeast, plants and some mammalian tissues. ​Phytosphingosine is unique in that it possesses an additional hydroxyl group compared with other long-chain bases. However, its metabolism is unknown. Here we show that ​phytosphingosine is metabolized to odd-numbered fatty acids and is incorporated into glycerophospholipids both in yeast and mammalian cells. Disruption of the yeast gene encoding long-chain base 1-phosphate lyase, which catalyzes the committed step in the metabolism of ​phytosphingosine to glycerophospholipids, causes an ~40% reduction in the level of phosphatidylcholines that contain a C15 fatty acid. We also find that ​2-hydroxypalmitic acid is an intermediate of the phytosphingosine metabolic pathway. Furthermore, we show that the yeast ​MPO1 gene, whose product belongs to a large, conserved protein family of unknown function, is involved in ​phytosphingosine metabolism. Our findings provide insights into fatty acid diversity and identify a pathway by which hydroxyl group-containing lipids are metabolized.

About GPCRs

G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are a class of membrane proteins that allow the transmission of a wide variety of signals over the cell membrane, between different cells and over long distances inside the body. The molecular mechanisms of action of GPCRs were worked in great detail by Brian Kobilka and Robert Lefkowitz for which they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2012. Read More

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