Journal of cell science

The trans-membrane protein p25 forms highly specialized domains that regulate membrane composition and dynamics.

PMID 14600267


Trans-membrane proteins of the p24 family are abundant, oligomeric proteins predominantly found in cis-Golgi membranes. They are not easily studied in vivo and their functions are controversial. We found that p25 can be targeted to the plasma membrane after inactivation of its canonical KKXX motif (KK to SS, p25SS), and that p25SS causes the co-transport of other p24 proteins beyond the Golgi complex, indicating that wild-type p25 plays a crucial role in retaining p24 proteins in cis-Golgi membranes. We then made use of these observations to study the intrinsic properties of these proteins, when present in a different membrane context. At the cell surface, the p25SS mutant segregates away from both the transferrin receptor and markers of lipid rafts, which are enriched in cholesterol and glycosphingolipids. This suggests that p25SS localizes to, or contributes to form, specialized membrane domains, presumably corresponding to oligomers of p25SS and other p24 proteins. Once at the cell surface, p25SS is endocytosed, together with other p24 proteins, and eventually accumulates in late endosomes, where it remains confined to well-defined membrane regions visible by electron microscopy. We find that this p25SS accumulation causes a concomitant accumulation of cholesterol in late endosomes, and an inhibition of their motility - two processes that are functionally linked. Yet, the p25SS-rich regions themselves seem to exclude not only Lamp1 but also accumulated cholesterol. One may envision that p25SS accumulation, by excluding cholesterol from oligomers, eventually overloads neighboring late endosomal membranes with cholesterol beyond their capacity (see Discussion). In any case, our data show that p25 and presumably other p24 proteins are endowed with the intrinsic capacity to form highly specialized domains that control membrane composition and dynamics. We propose that p25 and other p24 proteins control the fidelity of membrane transport by maintaining cholesterol-poor membranes in the Golgi complex.