Septin Form and Function at the Cell Cortex [Membrane Biology]

May 8th, 2015 by Bridges, A. A., Gladfelter, A. S.

Septins are GTP-binding proteins that form filaments and higher-order structures on the cell cortex of eukaryotic cells and associate with actin and microtubule cytoskeletal networks. When assembled, septins coordinate cell division and contribute to cell polarity maintenance and membrane remodeling. These functions manifest themselves via scaffolding of cytosolic proteins and cytoskeletal networks to specific locations on membranes and by forming diffusional barriers that restrict lateral diffusion of proteins embedded in membranes. Notably, many neurodegenerative diseases and cancers have been characterized as having misregulated septins, suggesting their functions are relevant to diverse diseases. Despite the importance of septins, little is known about what features of the plasma membrane influence septin recruitment and alternatively, how septins influence plasma membrane properties. Septins have been localized to the cell cortex at the base of cilia, the mother-bud neck of yeast, and branch points of filamentous fungi and dendritic spines, cleavage furrows and in retracting membrane protrusions in mammalian cells. These sites all possess some degree of curvature and are likely composed of distinct lipid pools. Depending on the context, septins may act alone or in concert with other cytoskeletal elements to influence and sense membrane properties. The degree to which septins react to and/or induce changes in shape and lipid composition are discussed here. As septins are an essential player in basic biology and disease, understanding the interplay between septins and the plasma membrane is critical and may yield new and unexpected functions.