Lipid species are accurately distributed in the eukaryotic cell so that organelle and plasma membranes have an adequate lipid composition to support numerous cellular functions. In the plasma membrane, a precise regulation of the level of lipids such as phosphatidylserine, PI(4)P, and PI(4,5)P 2, is critical for maintaining the signaling competence of the cell. Several lipid transfer proteins of the ORP/Osh family contribute to this fine-tuning by delivering PS, synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum, to the plasma membrane in exchange for PI(4)P. To get insights into the role of these PS/PI(4)P exchangers in regulating plasma membrane features, we question how they selectively recognize and transfer lipid ligands with different acyl chains, whether these proteins exchange PS exclusively for PI(4)P or additionally for PI(4,5)P 2, and how sterol abundance in the plasma membrane impacts their activity.
We measured in vitro how the yeast Osh6p and human ORP8 transported PS and PI(4)P subspecies of diverse length and unsaturation degree between membranes by fluorescence-based assays. We established that the exchange activity of Osh6p and ORP8 strongly depends on whether these ligands are saturated or not, and is high with representative cellular PS and PI(4)P subspecies. Unexpectedly, we found that the speed at which these proteins individually transfer lipid ligands between membranes is inversely related to their affinity for them and that high-affinity ligands must be exchanged to be transferred more rapidly. Next we determined that Osh6p and ORP8 cannot use PI(4,5)P 2 for exchange processes, because it is a low-affinity ligand, and do not transfer more PS into sterol-rich membranes.
Our study provides new insights into PS/PI(4)P exchangers by indicating the degree to which they can regulate the acyl chain composition of the PM, and how they control PM phosphoinositide levels. Moreover, we establish general rules on how the activity of lipid transfer proteins relates to their affinity for ligands.