Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 138, Issue 3, pp 345–360 | Cite as

Lipid transport required to make lipids of photosynthetic membranes

  • Evan LaBrant
  • Allison C. Barnes
  • Rebecca L. RostonEmail author


Photosynthetic membranes provide much of the usable energy for life on earth. To produce photosynthetic membrane lipids, multiple transport steps are required, including fatty acid export from the chloroplast stroma to the endoplasmic reticulum, and lipid transport from the endoplasmic reticulum to the chloroplast envelope membranes. Transport of hydrophobic molecules through aqueous space is energetically unfavorable and must be catalyzed by dedicated enzymes, frequently on specialized membrane structures. Here, we review photosynthetic membrane lipid transport to the chloroplast in the context of photosynthetic membrane lipid synthesis. We independently consider the identity of transported lipids, the proteinaceous transport components, and membrane structures which may allow efficient transport. Recent advances in lipid transport of chloroplasts, bacteria, and other systems strongly suggest that lipid transport is achieved by multiple mechanisms which include membrane contact sites with specialized protein machinery. This machinery is likely to include the TGD1, 2, 3 complex with the TGD5 and TGD4/LPTD1 systems, and may also include a number of proteins with domains similar to other membrane contact site lipid-binding proteins. Importantly, the likelihood of membrane contact sites does not preclude lipid transport by other mechanisms including vectorial acylation and vesicle transport. Substantial progress is needed to fully understand all photosynthetic membrane lipid transport processes and how they are integrated.


Chloroplast Lipids Lipid transport Photosynthetic lipids Membrane contact sites 



We gratefully acknowledge all authors who contributed to our current understanding of chloroplast lipid transport, and apologize to those whom we did not cite directly due to space limits. RR was partially funded by United States Department of Agriculture NIFA Grant 2016-67013-24613.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA

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