Eukaryotic cells are organized into a complex system of subcompartments, each with its distinct protein and lipid composition. A continuous flux of membranes crosses these compartments, and in some cases direct connections exist between the different organelles. It is thus surprising that they can maintain their individual identities. Small GTPases and the phosphoinositides have emerged as the key regulators in the maintenance of the identity of the Golgi complex. This property is due to their ability to act either alone or, more often, in combination, as cues directing and controlling the recruitment of proteins that possess phosphoinositide-binding domains. Among these many proteins there are the lipid transfer proteins, which can transfer ceramide, oxysterol, cholesterol and possibly glucosylceramide. By regulating these lipid transfer proteins in this way, this binomial combination of the small GTPases and the phosphoinositides acquires a further important role: control of the synthesis and/or distribution of other important integral constituents of cell organelles, such as the sphingolipids and cholesterol. This role is particularly relevant at the level of the Golgi complex, a key organelle in the biosynthesis, transport and sorting of both lipids and proteins that is located at the intersection of the secretory and endocytic pathways.
- © 2006 Biochemical Society