Subcellular protein localization is a universal feature of eukaryotic cells, and the ubiquity of protein localization in prokaryotic species is now acquiring greater appreciation. Though some targeting anchors are known, the origin of polar and division-site localization remains mysterious for a large fraction of bacterial proteins. Ultimately, the molecular components responsible for such symmetry breaking must employ a high degree of self-organization. Here we propose a novel physical mechanism, based on the two-dimensional curvature of the membrane, for spontaneous lipid targeting to the poles and division site of rod-shaped bacterial cells. If one of the membrane components has a large intrinsic curvature, the geometrical constraint of the plasma membrane by the more rigid bacterial cell wall naturally leads to lipid microphase separation. We find that the resulting clusters of high-curvature lipids are large enough to spontaneously and stably localize to the two cell poles. Recent evidence of localization of the phospholipid cardiolipin to the poles of bacterial cells suggests that polar targeting of some proteins may rely on the membrane's differential lipid content. More generally, aggregates of lipids, proteins, or lipid-protein complexes may localize in response to features of cell geometry incapable of localizing individual molecules.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics