Controlling Cargo Trafficking in Multicomponent Membranes.

14 Jun 2019

Biological membranes typically contain a large number of different components dispersed in small concentrations in the main membrane phase, including proteins, sugars, and lipids of varying geometrical properties. Most of these components do not bind the cargo. Here, we show that such "inert" components can be crucial for the precise control of cross-membrane trafficking. Using a statistical mechanics model and molecular dynamics simulations, we demonstrate that the presence of inert membrane components of small isotropic curvatures dramatically influences cargo endocytosis, even if the total spontaneous curvature of such a membrane remains unchanged. Curved lipids, such as cholesterol, as well as asymmetrically included proteins and tethered sugars can, therefore, actively participate in the control of the membrane trafficking of nanoscopic cargo. We find that even a low-level expression of curved inert membrane components can determine the membrane selectivity toward the cargo size and can be used to selectively target membranes of certain compositions. Our results suggest a robust and general method of controlling cargo trafficking by adjusting the membrane composition without needing to alter the concentration of receptors or the average membrane curvature. This study indicates that cells can prepare for any trafficking event by incorporating curved inert components in either of the membrane leaflets.