Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 63, Issue 24, pp 2908–2921 | Cite as

Lipid flippases and their biological functions

  • T. PomorskiEmail author
  • A. K. Menon


The typically distinct phospholipid composition of the two leaflets of a membrane bilayer is generated and maintained by bi-directional transport (flip-flop) of lipids between the leaflets. Specific membrane proteins, termed lipid flippases, play an essential role in this transport process. Energy-independent flippases allow common phospholipids to equilibrate rapidly between the two monolayers and also play a role in the biosynthesis of a variety of glycoconjugates such as glycosphingolipids, N-glycoproteins, and glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored proteins. ATP-dependent flippases, including members of a conserved subfamily of P-type ATPases and ATP-binding cassette transporters, mediate the net transfer of specific phospholipids to one leaflet of a membrane and are involved in the creation and maintenance of transbilayer lipid asymmetry of membranes such as the plasma membrane of eukaryotes. Energy-dependent flippases also play a role in the biosynthesis of glycoconjugates such as bacterial lipopolysaccharide. This review summarizes recent progress on the identification and characterization of the various flippases and the demonstration of their biological functions.


Membrane assembly membrane asymmetry lipid flip-flop N-glycosylation ABC transporter P-type ATPase scramblase vesicle budding 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biology/BiophysicsHumboldt University BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of BiochemistryWeill Medical College of Cornell UniversityNew YorkUSA

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