, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 1071-1079
Date: 22 Nov 2009

Lantibiotics as probes for phosphatidylethanolamine

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Phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) is a major component in the mammalian plasma membrane. It is present mainly in the inner leaflet of the membrane bilayer in a viable, typical mammalian cell. However, accumulating evidence indicates that a number of biological events involve PE externalization. For instance, PE is concentrated at the surface of cleavage furrow between mitotic daughter cells and is correlated with the dynamics of contractile ring. In apoptotic cells, PE is exposed to the cell surface, thus providing a molecular marker for detection. In addition, PE is a cofactor in the anticoagulant mechanism, and a distinct distribution profile of PE has been documented at the blood–endothelium interface. These recent discoveries were made possible using PE-specific probes derived from duramycin and cinnamycin, which are members of type B lantibiotics. This review provides an account on the features of these PE-specific lantibiotics in the context of molecular probes for the characterization of PE on a cellular and tissue level. According to the existing data, PE is likely a versatile chemical species that plays a role in the regulation of defined biological and physiological activities. The utilities of lantibiotic-based molecular probes will help accelerate the characterization of PE as an abundant, yet elusive membrane component.