Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

Escherichia coli as a platform for the study of phosphoinositide biology

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Science Advances  27 Mar 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 3, eaat4872
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat4872


Despite being a minor component of cells, phosphoinositides are essential for eukaryotic membrane biology, serving as markers of organelle identity and involved in several signaling cascades. Their many functions, combined with alternative synthesis pathways, make in vivo study very difficult. In vitro studies are limited by their inability to fully recapitulate the complexities of membranes in living cells. We engineered the biosynthetic pathway for the most abundant phosphoinositides into the bacterium Escherichia coli, which is naturally devoid of this class of phospholipids. These modified E. coli, when grown in the presence of myo-inositol, incorporate phosphatidylinositol (PI), phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate (PI4P), phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2), and phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3) into their plasma membrane. We tested models of biophysical mechanisms with these phosphoinositides in a living membrane, using our system to evaluate the role of PIP2 in nonconventional protein export of human basic fibroblast growth factor 2. We found that PI alone is sufficient for the process.

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