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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2008 Sep;65(18):2833-41. doi: 10.1007/s00018-008-8353-2.

Phosphoinositides as regulators of membrane trafficking in health and disease.

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Department of Cell Biology and Oncology, Consorzio Mario Negri Sud, Via Nazionale 8/A, S. Maria Imbaro, Chieti 66030, Italy.


Membrane trafficking is crucial in the homeostasis of the highly compartmentalized eukaryotic cells. This compartmentalization occurs both at the organelle level, with distinct organelles maintaining their identities while also intensely interchanging components, and at a sub-organelle level, with adjacent subdomains of the same organelle containing different sets of lipids and proteins. A central question in the field is thus how this compartmentalization is established and maintained despite the intense exchange of components and even physical continuities within the same organelle. The phosphorylated derivatives of phosphatidylinositol, known as the phosphoinositides, have emerged as key components in this context, both as regulators of membrane trafficking and as finely tuned spatial and temporal landmarks for organelle and sub-organelle domains. The central role of the phosphoinositides in cell homeostasis is highlighted by the severe consequences of the derangement of their metabolism caused by genetic deficiencies of the enzymes involved, and from the systematic hijacking of phosphoinositide metabolism that pathogens operate to promote their entry and/or survival in host cells.

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