While it is widely accepted that the lipid composition of eukaryotic membranes is under homeostatic control, the mechanisms through which cells sense lipid composition are still the subject of debate. It has been postulated that membrane curvature elastic energy is the membrane property that is regulated by cells, and that lipid composition is maintained by a ratio control function derived from the concentrations of type II and type 0 lipids, weighted appropriately. We assess this proposal by seeking a signature of ratio control in quantified lipid composition data obtained by electrospray ionization mass spectrometry from over 40 independent asynchronous cell populations. Our approach revealed the existence of a universal ‘pivot’ lipid, which marks the boundary between type 0 lipids and type II lipids, and which is invariant between different cell types or cells grown under different conditions. The presence of such a pivot species is a distinctive signature of the operation in vivo, in human cell lines, of a control function that is consistent with the hypothesis that membrane elastic energy is homeostatically controlled.
- data-driven modelling
- intrinsic curvature hypothesis
- membrane-stored elastic stress
- phospholipid homeostasis