ABSTRACT

Membrane phase separation to form micron-scale domains of lipids and proteins occurs in artificial membranes; however, a similar large-scale phase separation has not been reported in the plasma membrane of the living cells. We show here that a stable micron-scale protein-depleted region is generated in the plasma membrane of yeast mutants lacking phosphatidylserine at high temperatures. We named this region the ‘void zone’. Transmembrane proteins and certain peripheral membrane proteins and phospholipids are excluded from the void zone. The void zone is rich in ergosterol, and requires ergosterol and sphingolipids for its formation. Such properties are also found in the cholesterol-enriched domains of phase-separated artificial membranes, but the void zone is a novel membrane domain that requires energy and various cellular functions for its formation. The formation of the void zone indicates that the plasma membrane in living cells has the potential to undergo phase separation with certain lipid compositions. We also found that void zones were frequently in contact with vacuoles, in which a membrane domain was also formed at the contact site.

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