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Microscopy (Oxf). 2016 Jun;65(3):201-10. doi: 10.1093/jmicro/dfw002. Epub 2016 Feb 15.

Higher-order assemblies of BAR domain proteins for shaping membranes.

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Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Ikoma 630-0192, Japan


Most cellular organelles contain lipid bilayer membranes. The earliest characterization of cellular organelles was performed by electron microscopy observation of such membranes. However, the precise mechanisms for shaping the membrane in particular subcellular organelles is poorly understood. Classically, the overall cellular shape, i.e. the shape of the plasma membrane, was thought to be governed by the reorganization of cytoskeletal components such as actin and microtubules. The plasma membrane contains various submicron structures such as clathrin-coated pits, caveolae, filopodia and lamellipodia. These subcellular structures are either invaginations or protrusions and are associated with the cytoskeleton. Therefore, it could be hypothesized that there are membrane-binding proteins that cooperates with cytoskeleton in shaping of plasma membrane organelles. Proteins with the Bin-Amphiphysin-Rvs (BAR) domain connect a variety of membrane shapes to actin filaments. The BAR domains themselves bend the membranes by their rigidity and then mold the membranes into tubules through their assembly as spiral polymers, which are thought to be involved in the various submicron structures. Membrane tubulation by polymeric assembly of the BAR domains is supposed to be regulated by binding proteins, binding lipids and the mechanical properties of the membrane. This review gives an overview of BAR protein assembly, describes the significance of the assembly and discusses how to study the assembly in the context of membrane and cellular morphology. The technical problems encountered in microscopic observation of BAR domain assembly are also discussed.


BAR domain; F-BAR domain; I-BAR domain; membrane; scission; tubulation

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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