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Mol Biol Cell. Mar 2005; 16(3): 1282–1295.
PMCID: PMC551492

A Plasma Membrane Pool of Phosphatidylinositol 4-Phosphate Is Generated by Phosphatidylinositol 4-Kinase Type-III Alpha: Studies with the PH Domains of the Oxysterol Binding Protein and FAPP1

Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Monitoring Editor


The PH domains of OSBP and FAPP1 fused to GFP were used to monitor PI(4)P distribution in COS-7 cells during manipulations of PI 4-kinase (PI4K) activities. Both domains were associated with the Golgi and small cytoplasmic vesicles, and a small fraction of OSBP-PH was found at the plasma membrane (PM). Inhibition of type-III PI4Ks with 10 μM wortmannin (Wm) significantly reduced but did not abolish Golgi localization of either PH domains. Downregulation of PI4KIIα or PI4KIIIβ by siRNA reduced the localization of the PH domains to the Golgi and in the former case any remaining Golgi localization was eliminated by Wm treatment. PLC activation by Ca2+ ionophores dissociated the domains from all membranes, but after Ca2+ chelation, they rapidly reassociated with the Golgi, the intracellular vesicles and with the PM. PM association of the domains was significantly higher after the Ca2+ transient and was abolished by Wm pretreatment. PM relocalization was not affected by down-regulation of PI4KIIIβ or -IIα, but was inhibited by down-regulation of PI4KIIIα, or by 10 μM PAO, which also inhibits PI4KIIIα. Our data suggest that these PH domains detect PI(4)P formation in extra-Golgi compartments under dynamic conditions and that various PI4Ks regulate PI(4)P synthesis in distinct cellular compartments.


Phosphoinositides have been known for some time for their signaling roles in mediating the actions of calcium-mobilizing hormones and neurotransmitters (Michell, 1975 blue right-pointing triangle; Berridge, 1984 blue right-pointing triangle). Phosphoinositides are also emerging as important regulators of molecular interactions critical for proper trafficking and function of cellular proteins (Martin, 1997 blue right-pointing triangle; Odorizzi et al., 2000 blue right-pointing triangle). There are a number of inositide kinase and phosphatase enzymes that have been shown to play a central role in the sorting of molecules to specific organelles (Fruman et al., 1998 blue right-pointing triangle; Odorizzi et al., 2000 blue right-pointing triangle). Phosphatidylinositol (PI) 4-kinases (PI4Ks), on the other hand, have long been considered only in the context of synthesis of polyphosphoinositides, the precursors of the PLC-generated second messengers, Ins(1,4,5)P3 and diacylglycerol in agonist-stimulated cells. This picture has begun to change only when the first two PI4Ks, Pik1 and Stt4, were cloned in yeast (Flanagan et al., 1993 blue right-pointing triangle; Garcia-Bustos et al., 1994 blue right-pointing triangle; Yoshida et al., 1994 blue right-pointing triangle), and it was shown that the two proteins assumed nonredundant functions, related to Golgi to membrane trafficking and to cell-wall biogenesis, respectively (Hama et al., 1999 blue right-pointing triangle; Walch-Solimena and Novick, 1999 blue right-pointing triangle; Audhya et al., 2000 blue right-pointing triangle). The mammalian homologues of the yeast enzymes, the type-III PI4ks have been identified as the wortmannin (Wm)-sensitive enzymes responsible for the synthesis of the hormone-sensitive pools of PI(4)P and PI(4,5)P2 (Nakanishi et al., 1995 blue right-pointing triangle; Downing et al., 1996 blue right-pointing triangle). However, localizations of the two type-III enzymes in mammalian cells are not particularly consistent with their function at the plasma membrane, the type-IIIβ enzymes being localized primarily to the Golgi (Wong et al., 1997 blue right-pointing triangle), whereas the type-IIIα is found at the ER (Wong et al., 1997 blue right-pointing triangle) and in the pericentriolar area that possibly also contains the Golgi compartment (Nakagawa et al., 1996 blue right-pointing triangle). In addition to being produced by type-III PI4Ks, PI(4)P is also generated by the type-II PI4Ks, a separate family of Wm-insensitive enzymes that have been cloned recently and that also exist as an α and β form (Barylko et al., 2001 blue right-pointing triangle; Minogue et al., 2001 blue right-pointing triangle; Balla et al., 2002 blue right-pointing triangle; Wei et al., 2002 blue right-pointing triangle). The localization of these latter enzymes is more complex in that the endogenous forms are found in localization to trans-Golgi (Wei et al., 2002 blue right-pointing triangle; Wang et al., 2003 blue right-pointing triangle), whereas the expressed forms are also localized to endosomes, especially in the case of the type-IIα enzyme (Balla et al., 2002 blue right-pointing triangle). This latter enzyme has also been found in noncaveolar Rafts (Minogue et al., 2001 blue right-pointing triangle), and in a subcompartment of the ER (Waugh et al., 2003 blue right-pointing triangle) and has been purified from the secretory granules of adrenal chromaffin cells (Barylko et al., 2001 blue right-pointing triangle). The only enzyme that has been shown to translocate to the plasma membrane in stimulated cells was the type-IIβ enzyme using a Rac-dependent mechanism (Wei et al., 2002 blue right-pointing triangle). Nonetheless, type-II PI4K activity has been shown to associate with epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptors (Kauffmann-Zeh et al., 1994 blue right-pointing triangle) and with another group of membrane proteins, the tetraspanins (Berditchevski et al., 1997 blue right-pointing triangle). All of these data suggest that localization alone cannot unveil the multiple roles of the PI4Ks and there is a need for additional methods that can assess the activity of these enzymes in the various cellular compartments preferably in living cells.

Recent advances in understanding the nature of phosphoinositide-protein interactions and the detailed characterization of protein domains that specifically recognize inositol lipids (Hurley and Meyer, 2001 blue right-pointing triangle; Lemmon, 2003 blue right-pointing triangle) allowed dynamic imaging of several phosphoinositide species in living cells (Balla et al., 2000 blue right-pointing triangle; Balla and Varnai, 2002 blue right-pointing triangle). Among these, the pleckstrin homology (PH) domains have been particularly popular because of their often (but not always) specific and high-affinity binding to specific phosphoinositides (Lemmon and Ferguson, 2000 blue right-pointing triangle; Yu et al., 2004 blue right-pointing triangle). The PH domains of the OSBP and FAPP1 proteins have been shown to recognize PI(4)P very specifically in vitro (Dowler et al., 2000 blue right-pointing triangle). A detailed characterization of the cellular localization of these PH domains in yeast, on the other hand, led to the conclusion that in addition to PI(4)P, their localization is also determined by protein-protein interactions (Levine and Munro, 2002 blue right-pointing triangle).

In the present study, we used the PH domains of the OSBP and FAPP1 proteins together with various manipulations of PI4K activities to obtain further spatial information about PI(4)P production by the distinct enzymes and about the usefulness of these PH domains for such analyses. In agreement with previous reports, our studies show that in steady state, the two PH domains detect PI(4)P formation in the Golgi by a mechanism that is also Arf1 dependent. However, our data also suggest that during de novo synthesis, both PH domains can reveal active PI(4)P formation in nonGolgi membranes and that distinct PI4Ks are responsible for the generation of this lipid in the various membrane compartments.



Ionomycin, Wm, and BAPTA were purchased from Calbiochem (La Jolla, CA), and brefeldin A (BFA) from Epicenter Technologies (Madison, WI). The primary antibody of gm130 was obtained from BD Transduction Laboratories (Franklin Lakes, NJ) and the monoclonal anti HA antibody (HA1.1) was form Covance (Berkley, CA). The polyclonal antibody against the type-IIα PI4K was kindly provided by Drs. Jun Guo and Pietro DeCamilli. The antibody against the PI4KIIIα was obtained by immunization of New Zeeland Rabbits with the peptide, KYLTASQLVPPDNQDTRS conjugated to KLH (Covance), and affinity purification of the immune-sera using the same peptide conjugated to Sulfolinc gel (New England Peptide, Gardner, MA) The secondary antibodies, Alexa-595 and Alexa-488 were from Molecular Probes (Eugene, OR). The lipofectamine 2000 reagent was purchased from Invitrogen (Carlsbad, CA).

DNA Constructs and Transfections

The PH domain of OSBP (residues 87–189) has been amplified from human brain cDNA (Quick-clone, Clontech, Palo Alto, CA) using the primer pairs of: fw: 5′-tttagatctggctcggctcgagagggctggctc-3′, rev: 5′-aaagaattctgccagcatcttcacagctttggc-3′. The PH domain of FAPP1 (residues 1–101) was amplified from a partial human EST clone: (IMAGE id: 287618) with the following primers: fw: 5′-aaagaattcaccatggagggggtgttgtacaag-3′, rev: 5′-aaaggatccttagtccttgtatcagtcaaacatgc-3′. Both PH domains were subcloned into the pEGFP plasmid, pEGFP-C1 (BglII/EcoRI) and pEGFP-N1 (EcoRI/BamHI) for the OSBP and FAPP1 PH-domains, respectively, in frame with the GFP protein. Mutations were generated with the QuikChange mutagenesis kit of Stratagene (La Jolla, CA). The construct containing the transmembrane targeting sequence of the β1,4-galactosyl transferase enzyme fused to GFP (N-GT-GFP) was created from the commercially available CFP-fused construct (Clontech) by exchanging the CFP to GFP. For siRNA studies, the double-stranded RNAs corresponding to nucleotides 888–908 of human PI4KIIα (NM_018425; Wang et al., 2003 blue right-pointing triangle), 2684–2704 of PI4KIIIβ (NM_002651), and 1072–1092 of PI4KIIIα (NM_058004) were used. In some experiments, a pool of five different siRNAs (against sequences: 1072–1092, 1244–1264, 4516–4536, 6175–6195, and 6325–6345) were mixed and used to knock down the PI4KIIIα enzyme. Silencing RNAs were obtained from Qiagen (Valencia, CA). COS-7 cells (105 cells in 2 ml) were plated in 35-mm culture dishes 1 d before transfection with 20 μl of 20 μM siRNA using Oligofectamine (Invitrogen). After 6 h, the medium was changed to DMEM containing fetal bovine serum (FBS). Transfection with the siRNAs was repeated 24 h later, and cells were transfected with plasmid DNAs on the third day using Lipofectamine 2000. Cells were then studied on the following day either live or after fixation and immunostaining. The effect of siRNA treatment on the PI4K expression levels was also determined by Western blot analysis.

Immunocytochemistry and Confocal Microscopy

For immunostaining, COS-7 cells were grown on coverslips and fixed in 2% formaldehyde in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS; pH 7.4) for 10 min at room temperature. After three washes with PBS (5 min each), fixed cells were incubated in blocking solution (10% FBS and 0.2% Saponin in PBS) for 1 h to decrease the nonspecific binding of the antibodies and to improve the penetration of the antibodies through membranes. This blocking solution was also used for diluting the primary antibody (gm130 [1:500] or anti HA [1: 500]), and cells were incubated for 1 h. After three washes, cells were incubated in the same buffer with a fluorescent secondary antibody (1:1000) for 1 h at RT. This was followed by a last washing step (3 times for 5 min, in PBS), and then the cells were rinsed with distilled water, air-dried, and mounted on glass slides using Cytoseal 60 mounting medium (Stephens Scientific, Riverdale, NJ). Cells were then analyzed by using an inverted Zeiss LSM-410 or LSM-510 scanning laser confocal microscope (Thornwood, NY) or an Olympus IX70 inverted microscope (Melville, NY) equipped with a CCD camera (Hamamatsu, ORCA ER, Bridgewater, NJ) and a lambda DG-4 illuminator (Sutter, Novato, CA). Live cells were studied at 35°C using a temperature-controlled chamber (Harvard Instruments, Boston, MA) and an objective heater (Bioptech, Butler, PA).

Analysis of FRET in Cell Suspension

To have a quantitative measure of membrane localization of the various constructs, the CFP and YFP variants of all fusion proteins were created. These were cotransfected into COS-7 cells that were cultured in 10-cm culture dishes. One day after transfection, cells were removed from the dishes by mild trypsinization, washed, and centrifuged. Cells (~3–5 million) were then resuspended in 2 ml of the Krebs-Ringer solution described above and placed in the thermostated cuvette holder of a fluorescence spectrophotometer used for ratiometric Ca2+ measurements. Recordings were made using an excitation of 425 nm and calculating a ratio from the emissions detected at 525 and 475 nm (20 nm bandwidth, each). Ionomycin (10 μM) was used to activate endogenous phospholipase C to hydrolyze the phospholipids and the decrease in the 525/475 ratio was taken as an index of translocation of the domains from the membrane to the cytosol (see van Der Wal et al., 2001 blue right-pointing triangle and Várnai and Balla, 1998 blue right-pointing triangle for details concerning the FRET approach, and ionomycin manipulation, respectively). Digitonin (15 μg/ml) was added at the end of the incubations so that the domains dissociate away from FRET distance. The slight baseline drift (which was increased by high Wm concentrations) was fitted for the control period and was subtracted from the traces. Traces were reproduced at least three times in independent experiments.


Cellular Distribution of the OSBP- and FAPP1-PH-GFP Proteins

Both PH domains were expressed as GFP fusion proteins and their positions relative to GFP were designed to follow those in their native proteins, i.e., FAPP1-PH was N-terminally and OSBP-PH C-terminally placed relative to GFP. Fusion proteins were expressed in COS-7 cells and were examined in a scanning laser confocal microscope either in live cells or after fixation with 2% paraformaldehyde. Occasionally, fixed cells were also examined in a wide-field fluorescence microscope equipped with a CCD camera. As observed earlier by the Munro group (Levine and Munro, 1998 blue right-pointing triangle, 2001 blue right-pointing triangle, 2002 blue right-pointing triangle), both PH domains showed primarily Golgi localization (Figure 1). There was a significant heterogeneity in the morphology of cells in that some cells showed a very pronounced small vesicular distribution of OSBP-PH-GFP, especially at high expression levels, whereas in some cases a clear filamentous structure extending from the Golgi was observed (e.g., Figure 1). Such filaments were even more pronounced with the FAPP1-PH-GFP, but at higher expression levels, this construct caused the accumulation and aggregation of large cytoplasmic vesicles with FAPP1-PH-GFP in their walls and a parallel loss of Golgi localization. This was never observed with the OSBP-PH domain. A further difference between the distributions of the two proteins was the prominent nuclear accumulation of the OSBP-PH domain, which was not characteristic of the FAPP1-PH domain (Figure 1). When the distribution of the proteins was studied in fixed, rather than live cells, the localization of the OSBP-PH was very similar to that observed in live-cells, but the FAPP1-PH domain also appeared more in filamentous structures and the larger vesicular structures were not obvious in the fixed and immunostained samples. Mutant forms of the proteins (R18L-FAPP1-PH) or (R107E,R108E-OSBP-PH), which prevents their PI(4)P binding showed no localization to the Golgi (unpublished data), consistent with earlier findings (Levine and Munro, 2002 blue right-pointing triangle).

Figure 1.
Cellular distribution of OSBP-PH-GFP (A) and FAPP1-PH-GFP (B) expressed in COS-7 cells. Cells were transiently transfected with the indicated PH domain-GFP chimera for 24 h, and live cells were studied by confocal microscopy at 35°C. In most cells ...

Effects of PH Domains on Golgi Morphology and Function

Next, we analyzed whether expression of the constructs altered the Golgi morphology especially because many cells expressing either of the constructs showed a filamentous tubular structure that was reminiscent of the acute effect of BFA on the Golgi. To assess Golgi morphology, we used either immunostaining for the endogenous cis-Golgi marker gm130 or the transmembrane domain of the β1,4-galactosyl transferase enzyme fused to GFP (N-GT-GFP) in live cells. As shown in Figure 2A, expression of either the OSBP- or FAPP1-PH-GFP caused tubulation and dispersion of the cis-Golgi marker. Importantly, the colocalization of the domains with the cis-Golgi marker was progressively lost in cells expressing higher levels of the fusion proteins (compare the structures shown by the arrows on Figure 2A). For a simultaneous detection of a Golgi marker with the PH domains in live cells, the latter were also created as RFP fusion proteins using the mRFP protein, which does not oligomerize (Campbell et al., 2002 blue right-pointing triangle) in place of GFP. In these studies a GFP construct containing the N-terminal segment including the transmembrane domain of the β1,4-galactosyl transferase enzyme (N-GT-GFP) was used as a Golgi marker (Yamaguchi and Fukuda, 1995 blue right-pointing triangle). In this construct, the GFP is located in the lumen of the Golgi. This marker also revealed the tubulation caused by moderate expression of both PH domains (Figure 2B, top and middle rows) and a small extent of Golgi dispersion at higher expression levels of the FAPP1, but less so with the OSBP-PH domain (Figure 2B, bottom row).

Figure 2.
Effects of overexpressed OSBP- and FAPP1-PH-GFP on the distribution of Golgi markers. COS-7 cells were transfected for 24 h with either the GFP-fused (A) or the mRFP-fused (B) respective PH domains and studied either as fixed cells immunostained for the ...

Arf-1 Is Necessary for Localization of the OSBP and FAPP1-PH Domains to the Golgi

The localization of the OSBP- or FAPP1-PH domains to the Golgi area raised the possibility that Arf1 has an important role (direct or indirect) in determining the localization of the PH domain GFP fusion proteins. This has already been suggested by previous studies using the same PH domains (Levine and Munro, 2002 blue right-pointing triangle; Godi et al., 2004 blue right-pointing triangle), and it has been shown that PI4K-IIIβ also associates with and is regulated by Arf1 in mammalian cells (Godi et al., 1999 blue right-pointing triangle). Therefore, we investigated whether inhibition of Arf1 GDP/GTP exchange by BFA has an effect on the localization of the OSBP- or FAPP1-PH domains. As shown in Figure 3, addition of BFA (5 μg/ml) led to the rapid release of both the FAPP1- and OSBP-PH domains from the Golgi in most of the cells. Importantly, the BFA-induced dissociation of the OSBP-PH was consistently faster than that of the FAPP1-PH (Figure 3). In contrast to the Golgi, OSBP-PH associated with small intracellular vesicles was resistant to BFA treatment and so were the large vesicles present in cells that expressed high concentrations of the FAPP1-PH domain (unpublished data).

Figure 3.
Effects of brefeldin A (BFA) treatment on the localization of OSBP- and FAPP1-PH-GFP in COS-7 cells. Cells were transfected with the indicated constructs and live cells were examined by laser confocal microscopy 24 h later at 35°C. (A) After addition ...

Effects of PI4K Inhibition or Down-regulation on PH Domain Localization

To inhibit the activity of the type-III PI 4-kinases, we treated the cells with high concentrations (up to 10 μM) of Wm. Pretreatment of cells with 10 μM Wm at 37°C decreased the number of cells showing prominent localization at the Golgi and changed the localization to a more dispersed vesicular pool. Nonetheless, there were still a significant number of cells in which the OSBP- or FAPP1-PH domains were associated with the Golgi area after treatment of the cells for 1 h with up to 10 μM Wm and even the formation of tubular structures could be observed (Figure 4A). In some cases it was possible to find the same cell before and after Wm administration or to monitor the change in the PH domain distribution during Wm treatment (Figures (Figures4B4B and and5).5). Overall, there was a great variability in the Wm-sensitive fraction of the Golgi localization with both PH domains.

Figure 4.
Effects of wortmannin (Wm) treatment on the localization of the OSBP or FAPP1-PH-GFP fusion proteins in COS-7 cells. COS-7 cells were transfected with the indicated PH-GFP construct for 24 h and studied as live cells by confocal microscopy. (A) Cells ...
Figure 5.
Effects of down-regulation of the type-IIIβ PI4K by siRNA treatment on the localization of OSBP- and FAPP1-PH-GFP in live (A) and OSBP-PH-GFP in fixed (C) COS-7 cells. COS-7 cells were treated with double-stranded RNA designed to interfere with ...

We also used small interfering (si)RNA to evaluate the importance of the specific PI4Ks in providing the PI(4)P for localization of the PH domains. Cells were treated for 2 d with siRNA designed against PI4KIIIβ, PI4KIIα, or PI4KIIIα and transfected for 1 d with the PH-GFP constructs. PI4KIIIα knock-down cells showed no major alteration in their PH domain localization patterns (unpublished data). In case of PI4KIIIβ knock-down, a significant number of cells showed no or little Golgi localization with either PH domains and the remaining localization was found in dispersed vesicular structures that did not show the usual Golgi morphology (Figure 5A). Knock-down of the PI4KIIα also impaired Golgi localization, but its effect was not as dramatic with the FAPP1-PH domain as with OSBP-PH in the live cells (Figure 6A). When cells were fixed and immunostained for the respective kinases, it was also confirmed that in many— but not all— cells in which the kinases were largely knocked down, the Golgi localization of the PH domains was greatly reduced or eliminated (Figures (Figures5C5C and and6B).6B). However, it was important to note that in many cells after 2 d of siRNA treatment, in spite of the reduced immunostaining of either kinases, there was still localization of the PH domains (unpublished data), suggesting that in a significant fraction (~50%) of cells either of the kinases can be eliminated without a dramatic effect on the steady state distribution of the PH domains. However, when cells were chosen in which the Golgi localization of the PH domains was relatively well preserved after knock-down of PI4KIIα, this residual localization was completely eliminated by Wm (10 μM) treatment (Figure 7).

Figure 6.
Effects of down-regulation of the type-IIα PI4K by siRNA treatment on the localization of OSBP- and FAPP1-PH-GFP in live (A) and OSBP-PH-GFP in fixed (B) COS-7 cells. COS-7 cells were treated with double-stranded RNA designed to interfere with ...
Figure 7.
Effect of wortmannin treatment on the localization of the OSBP- and FAPP1-PH-GFP after 2-d treatment with siRNA against PI4KIIα. COS-7 cells were treated with siRNA and transfected with the PH domain constructs as described in the legend to Figure ...

Manipulations of Cellular Ca2+ Affects the Distribution of OSBP and FAPP1-PH-GFP Proteins

The experiments described so far gave information on the steady state distribution of the PH domains. To determine whether rapid elimination of the inositol lipids have an effect on the distribution of the PH domains, we used activation of the endogenous PLC enzymes so that all of the PI(4,5)P2 and PI(4)P is acutely eliminated from the cells. This was achieved by ionomycin treatment that has been shown to be an effective way of hydrolyzing all of the PI(4)P and PI(4,5)P2 in the membranes (Várnai and Balla, 1998 blue right-pointing triangle). As shown in Figure 8A, ionomycin treatment induced the release of the OSBP-PH domain from the membranes, including the Golgi membranes with a parallel increase in the cytoplasmic fraction of the protein. Chelation of the Ca2+ that decreases PLC activity, hence allowing the replenishment of the lipids via resynthesis, caused a reappearance of the PH domains at the Golgi, as well as on the surface of small vesicles in the cytoplasm and importantly, at the plasma membrane. The plasma membrane association of the PH domain was significantly stronger after the Ca2+ increase and chelation than prior to the ionomycin treatment (Figure 8, A and B). This plasma membrane association was much more prominent with the OSBP- than with the FAPP1-PH domain (compare Figures Figures88 and and9).9). When these experiments were performed in cells after treatment with high concentrations of Wm (1–10 μM), the association of the OSBP-PH domain with the plasma membrane was almost completely abolished, whereas some reassociation of the domain with the Golgi and the intracellular vesicles were still observed (Figure 8A). It is important to note that no prominent translocation of either PI4KIIIα or PI4KIIIβ to the plasma membrane was observed under the same conditions (unpublished data).

Figure 8.
Effects of cytoplasmic [Ca2+] increases on the distribution of the OSBP-PH-GFP fusion protein. Cells were transfected with the indicated constructs and live cells were examined by confocal microscopy (Zeiss LSM410) at 35°C. (A) Addition of ionomycin ...
Figure 9.
Effects of cytoplasmic [Ca2+] increases on the distribution of the FAPP1-PH-GFP fusion protein. See legend to Figure 8 for experimental details. (A) Addition of ionomycin (10 μM) in the presence of 2 mM external Ca2+ caused the translocation of ...

Because these changes were relatively robust, we tried to quantitate them using the FRET approach that we have used before (van Der Wal et al., 2001 blue right-pointing triangle; Varnai et al., 2002 blue right-pointing triangle). For this purpose, the CFP- and YFP-tagged versions of the respective PH domains were created and coexpressed in COS-7 cells. Cells were then removed from the culture plates with mild trypsinization and incubated in a fluorescence spectrophotometer for ratiometric measurements of YFP/CFP ratios using CFP excitation at 425 nm. As shown before (van Der Wal et al., 2001 blue right-pointing triangle), when the PH domains with the CFP and YFP fluorophores are bound to the membrane they are within FRET distance, whereas being in the cytoplasm they are not. Therefore, the FRET signal is a good reflection of the localization of the domains to the cellular membranes. As shown in the graph in Figure 8A, ionomycin treatment slowly decreased the FRET signal between the OSBP-PH-YFP/OSBP-PH-CFP pairs and similarly for the FAPP1-PH-YFP/FAPP1-PH-CFP pairs (Figure 8A, graph). This signal was restored once the Ca2+ was removed with the Ca2+ chelator BAPTA or EGTA. There was clearly a larger FRET signal after the Ca2+ chelation observed with the FAPP1-PH domains than before ionomycin addition (Figure 9A, graph inset). This was obscured in the case of the OSBP-PH domain by the high initial FRET values probably originating from the highly concentrated presence of the domains in the nucleus (Figure 8A, graph). There was no increase in the FRET signal after BAPTA (or EGTA) addition without ionomycin treatment (unpublished data). Importantly, in both cases, a significant fraction (~50–60%) of the FRET increase after ionomycin and BAPTA treatment was abolished by treatment of the cells with 10 μM Wm (Figures (Figures8A8A and and9A,9A, graphs). At lower concentrations of Wm (10–100 nM) that inhibit only the PI 3-kinases, there were no inhibitory effects observed (unpublished data).

To assess the fraction of the PH domains associated with the plasma membrane, we performed FRET measurements by pairing the OSBP- or the FAPP1-PH domain CFP chimera with the YFP-fused PLCδ1PH domain. Because the PLCδ1PH-YFP protein localizes primarily to the plasma membrane and follows a translocation to and from the cytosol in response to ionomycin and BAPTA treatment, respectively (Várnai and Balla, 1998 blue right-pointing triangle), the FRET between the PLCδ1PH-YFP and CFP-fused OSBP- or FAPP1-PH domain reflects the interaction between these domains at the plasma membrane. This is illustrated in Figures Figures88 and and99 (panels B), where the translocation of the PLCδ1PH-mRFP and GFP-OSBP-PH proteins were followed simultaneously during ionomycin and BAPTA treatment. As shown in Figure 8, the FRET signal between the CFP-OSBP-PH and PLCδ1PH-YFP is relatively modest under basal conditions and decreases in response to ionomycin treatment, reflecting the disappearance of the small initial association of the OSBP-PH with the plasma membrane. After BAPTA treatment, there was a large increase observed in the FRET signal, reflecting the increased association of the two PH domains at the plasma membrane. This response was, again, greatly inhibited by Wm treatment (Figure 8B, graph). Consistent with the morphological findings, the FRET signal was much smaller between the FAPP1-PH-CFP and PLCδ1PH-YFP constructs (hence the noisier trace in Figure 9B, graph), indicating that FAPP1-PH barely associates with the plasma membrane under basal steady state conditions. There was also very little change after ionomycin treatment, and only after Ca2+ chelation was an increase in the FRET signal observed. This increase was, again, greatly inhibited by Wm treatment. These data together suggested that after a large Ca2+ transient, there is a significant type-III PI 4-kinase–dependent association of the OSBP-PH and to a lesser degree of the FAPP1-PH domain with the plasma membrane.

The Role of PI4K Enzymes in the Redistribution of the PH Domains after Ionomycin Treatment and Ca2+ Chelation

To assess whether any of the two type-III PI 4-kinases was responsible for the Wm-sensitive PH domain redistribution to the plasma membrane, similar experiments were performed in COS-7 cells after down-regulation of the various PI4K isoforms by 2-d treatment with siRNA. These experiments were performed either in live cells (Figure 10) or in cells that were fixed after the ionomycin/EGTA treatment and processed for immunocytochemistry to determine the extent of knock-down (unpublished data). Down-regulation of either PI4KIIIβ or PI4KIIα failed to impair the relocalization of the PH domains to the plasma membrane after ionomycin/EGTA treatment and variably affected the Golgi localization (Figure 10, B and C). In some cells the Golgi localization was minimal; in others it was still detectable after the treatment. In contrast, down-regulation of PI4KIIIα almost completely abolished the localization of the PH domains to the small peripheral vesicles and to the plasma membrane (Figure 10D), but did not affect their relocalization to the Golgi in most cells. As an alternative to down-regulation, we also used phenylarsineoxide (PAO) at a concentration (10 μM) that preferentially inactivates the type-IIIα PI4K isoform (Balla et al., 2002 blue right-pointing triangle). Pretreatment of the cells with 10 μM PAO for 10 min did not have any effect on steady state localization (unpublished data), but completely prevented the relocalization of the either PH domains to the plasma membrane (Figure 10E). In the case of the FAPP1- but not OSBP-PH, PAO also impaired the relocalization of the PH domain to the Golgi. The effect of PAO was reversed by simultaneous incubation with 1 mM dithiothreitol (DTT; Figure 10F) but not with β-mercaptoethanol (unpublished data). Taken together, these experiments indicated that PI4KIIIα is the enzyme that is mainly responsible for the production of PI(4)P that reaches the plasma membrane during active phosphoinositide resynthesis.

Figure 10.
Relocalization of OSBP- and FAPP1PH-GFP in COS-7 cells in which PI4K isoforms were down-regulated or inhibited. Cells were treated with siRNA and transfected with the plasmid DNA as described in the legend to Figure 5. Cells were studied live on the temperature-controlled ...


The present experiments were designed to explore whether PI 4-kinase function can be assessed at the single cell level using PH domains that recognize PI(4)P in vitro. Recent studies in yeast have concluded that the Golgi localization of the OSBP- and FAPP1-PH domains, the two domains used in the present study, are dependent both on the function of the yeast PI 4-kinase, Pik1, and on an Arf1-dependent additional component (Levine and Munro, 2002 blue right-pointing triangle). Our present data on COS-7 cells are in complete agreement with those conclusions, in that both the lipid component and Arf1 in its GTP-bound form are necessary for efficient Golgi localization of these PH domains in steady state. However, our observations also showed that the OSBP-PH domain is also found in small vesicular compartments outside the Golgi, and the FAPP1-PH domain was also observed in a vesicular pool that became quite enlarged in cells expressing high levels of the fusion protein. Interestingly, at these extra-Golgi sites neither constructs showed the requirement for the Arf1 protein function.

An important finding of the present study was the prominent redistribution of both PH domains after Ca2+-induced PLC activation followed by Ca2+ removal. Both domains translocated to the cytosol in the presence of high intracellular [Ca2+], and reassociated with the Golgi after Ca2+ chelation. However, a significant fraction of the PH domains were found in the plasma membrane after this manipulation, and this response was largely abolished by concentrations of Wm that are consistent with the involvement of type-III PI4Ks in the process. It was also noteworthy that parallel to the appearance of the PH domains at the plasma membrane, large number of small vesicles were also visible just beneath the plasma membrane. These data indicated that PI(4)P is produced near and perhaps within the plasma membrane under these conditions and that both the OSBP- and FAPP1-PH-GFP are able to report on these changes. It is not clear at present why the localization of OSBP- or FAPP1-PH at the plasma membrane is low in resting cells. Whether this reflects low steady state PI(4)P levels at the plasma membrane or masking of this lipid by more stable interaction(s) with other endogenous proteins are questions to be further investigated.

Given the presence of multiple PI4K isoforms in eukaryotic cells, an important question to address was whether they all contributed to the membrane localization of the OSBP- and FAPP1-PH domains. This question was approached by pharmacological means as well as by using siRNA to down-regulate the respective PI4K enzymes. These experiments showed that both the type-IIα and the Wm-sensitive type-IIIβ enzyme was involved in the Golgi localization of the PH domains. Although the endogenous type-IIIβ enzyme shows the closest colocalization with either PH domains and also with the cis-Golgi marker gm130, the distribution of the type-IIα enzyme is only partially overlapping with the PH domains, consistent with the reported trans-Golgi and endosomal localization of this protein (Balla et al., 2002 blue right-pointing triangle; Wei et al., 2002 blue right-pointing triangle; Wang et al., 2003 blue right-pointing triangle). In addition, the type-II enzyme (both endogenous and expressed) shows a significant amount of vesicular localization outside the Golgi, but at these sites it does not attract either of the PH domains (Balla, A., and Balla, T., unpublished observation). Based on the partial Wm sensitivity and the knock-down studies, the function of the type-IIIβ enzyme is clearly important for the Golgi localization of the PH domains. However, our data also show that the type-IIα enzyme also contributes to PI(4)P formation in the Golgi, as also have been indicated by its involvement in AP-1 recruitment (Wang et al., 2003 blue right-pointing triangle). The relative contribution of the two PI 4-kinases appeared to show a great deal of variability in the COS-7 cells, and we could not find any morphological clues to predict the predominance of one over the other.

Remarkably, however, none of these enzymes was found to be necessary for the plasma membrane localization of the PH domains during active acute PI(4)P resynthesis after a strong, Ca2+-mediated PLC activation. The plasma membrane recruitment of the PH domains was Wm sensitive, was inhibited by 10 μM PAO and was largely eliminated in cells in which the PI4KIIIα was down-regulated. These data together suggest that the type-IIIα PI 4-kinase is responsible for the generation of this plasma membrane pool of PI(4)P, at least under these extreme conditions. This enzyme has been reported to localize primarily to the ER (Wong et al., 1997 blue right-pointing triangle), a finding also confirmed by our studies, and plasma membrane localization of the enzyme was not demonstrable either in unstimulated cells or after inomycin/EGTA treatment (Balla, A., and Balla, T., unpublished observation). Nevertheless, we cannot rule out the function of PI4KIIIα at the plasma membrane, and in Saccharomyces cerevisiae the homologue of this enzyme, Stt4 has also been shown to generate PI(4)P at the plasma membrane for subsequent conversion to PI(4,5)P2 by the yeast PIP kinase, Mss4 (Audhya and Emr, 2002 blue right-pointing triangle). However, it is also possible that PI(4)P is produced in a sub–plasma membrane vesicular pool of ER origin and the lipid is either transported to the PM or reaches the PM through dynamic exchange of these vesicles with the PM. Answering these questions will require further analysis and could reveal important new details about the generation of phosphoinositide pools at the plasma membrane.

Recently, Godi et al. (2004 blue right-pointing triangle) have reported on the localization and functions of the FAPP1 and FAPP2 proteins and the importance of the PH domains in their localization. Several findings reported in that study is relevant to the discussion of our current results. Godi et al. (2004 blue right-pointing triangle) have reported that the PH domains showed only partial colocalization with the cis-Golgi marker and a better colocalization with the TGN. In our studies, using COS-7 cells, both PH domains showed almost perfect colocalization with the cis-Golgi marker gm130 at low expression levels, but this colocalization was not maintained in cells expressing higher levels of the proteins. Godi et al. (1999 blue right-pointing triangle) also showed that Arf1 is important for the localization of both PH domains and demonstrated a direct interaction between recombinant Arf1 and the PH domains. This could explain the data obtained with BFA, but it remains to be seen whether direct interaction is the sole mechanism by which Arf1 can regulate PH domain association, because Arf1 had also been shown earlier by the same authors to be important in the recruitment of the type-IIIβ PI4K. Although the nature of the PI4Ks that contribute to the recruitment of the FAPP1 and FAPP2 proteins was not the main focus of the above study, some of the data indicated the importance of the type-IIIβ PI4K. Our data are also consistent with the involvement of the type-IIIβ PI4K enzyme in the membrane recruitment of the PH domains.

In summary, our data demonstrate that PI(4)P generation at distinct membrane compartments is regulated by distinct PI 4-kinase enzymes and this process can be visualized by the FAPP1- and OSBP-PH domains. These studies also show the importance of Ca2+ in regulating the dynamics of the interaction of the PH domains with the various membranes. Clearly, the restrictive, Arf1-dependent steady state Golgi localization of the PH domains was dramatically changed after a cytoplasmic Ca2+ challenge. Whether the localization of the PH domains in the extra-Golgi compartments requires additional proteins is yet to be determined. PI4Ks are clearly emerging as important enzymes with multifaceted functions that reach far beyond the production of PI(4)P as a simple lipid precursor of plasma membrane PI(4,5)P2 and it may be more than coincidence that all of the known PH domains that recognize PI(4)P are found in lipid-transfer proteins, such as OSBP, FAPP2, or in the recently described CERT (Hanada et al., 2003 blue right-pointing triangle). Exploration of the identity of the kinase(s) that regulate the synthesis of PI(4)P in distinct cellular compartments should aid further studies to understand the complex functions of phosphoinositides.


We thank Drs. Jun Guo and Pietro DeCamilli for the anti-PI4KIIα antibody, Drs. Paul Randazzo and Julie Donaldson for the Arf171QL construct, and Dr. Roger Y. Tsien for the monomeric red fluorescent protein. Part of the microscopy work (on the Zeiss 510 system) was performed at the Microscopy & Imaging Core (National Institute of Child Health and Development, National Institutes of Health) with the assistance of Drs. Vincent Schram and James T. Russell. The expert advice of Dr. Vincent Schram on the FRAP analysis is greatly appreciated. V.P. was partially supported by a grant from the Hungarian Science Foundation (OTKA T-034606).


This article was published online ahead of print in MBC in Press (http://www.molbiolcell.org/cgi/doi/10.1091/mbc.E04-07-0578) on January 5 2005.

Abbreviations used: BFA, brefeldin A; GFP, enhanced green fluorescent protein; mRFP, monomeric red fluorescent protein; OSBP, oxysterol-binding protein; PI, phosphatidylinositol; PI4K, phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase; PI(4)P, phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate; PI(4,5)P2, phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate; PH, pleckstrin homology; Wm, wortmannin.


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