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Nat Cell Biol. 2012 Apr 29;14(6):640-8. doi: 10.1038/ncb2487.

Patchwork organization of the yeast plasma membrane into numerous coexisting domains.

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Cellular Dynamics and Cell Patterning, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Am Klopferspitz 18, 82152 Martinsried, Germany.


The plasma membrane is made up of lipids and proteins, and serves as an active interface between the cell and its environment. Many plasma-membrane proteins are laterally segregated in the plane of the membrane, but the underlying mechanisms remain controversial. Here we investigate the distribution and dynamics of a representative set of plasma-membrane-associated proteins in yeast cells. These proteins were distributed non-homogeneously in patterns ranging from distinct patches to nearly continuous networks, and these patterns were in turn strongly influenced by the lipid composition of the plasma membrane. Most proteins segregated into distinct domains. However, proteins with similar or identical transmembrane sequences (TMSs) showed a marked tendency to co-localize. Indeed we could predictably relocate proteins by swapping their TMSs. Finally, we found that the domain association of plasma-membrane proteins has an impact on their function. Our results are consistent with self-organization of biological membranes into a patchwork of coexisting domains.

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