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J Lipid Res. 2011 Mar;52(3):582-9. doi: 10.1194/jlr.D012807. Epub 2010 Dec 29.

Detergent-free isolation and characterization of cholesterol-rich membrane domains from trans-Golgi network vesicles.

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Centre for Molecular Cell Biology, Department of Inflammation, Division of Medicine, University College London, Royal Free Campus, Rowland Hill Street, London, United Kingdom NW3 2PF.


Cholesterol is an abundant lipid of the trans-Golgi network (TGN) and of certain endosomal membranes where cholesterol-rich microdomains are important in the organization and compartmentalization of vesicular trafficking. Here we describe the development of a rapid method to isolate a cholesterol-rich endomembrane fraction. We show that widely used subcellular fractionation techniques incompletely separate cholesterol-rich membranes, such as the TGN, from organelles, such as late endosomes and lysosomes. To address this issue, we devised a new subcellular fractionation scheme involving two rounds of velocity centrifugation, membrane sonication, and discontinuous sucrose density gradient centrifugation. This strategy resulted in the isolation of a cholesterol and GM1 glycosphingolipid-enriched membrane fraction that was completely cleared of plasma membrane, endoplasmic reticulum, and mitochondria. This buoyant fraction was enriched for the TGN and recycling endosome proteins Rab11 and syntaxin-6, and it was well resolved from cis-Golgi and early and late endosomal membranes. We demonstrate that this technique can give useful insights into the compartmentation of phosphoinositide synthesis, and it facilitates the isolation of cholesterol-rich membranes from a population of TGN-trafficking vesicles.

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