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Nano-scale size holes in ER sheets provide an alternative to tubules for highly-curved membranes

By Lena K. Schroeder, Andrew E.S. Barentine, Sarah Schweighofer, David Baddeley, Joerg Bewersdorf, Shirin Bahmanyar

Posted 20 Sep 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/191536

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is composed of interconnected membrane sheets and tubules. Super-resolution microscopy recently revealed densely packed, rapidly moving ER tubules, highlighting the importance of revisiting classical views of ER structure with high spatial resolution in living cells. Using live-cell Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscopy, we show highly dynamic, subdiffraction-sized holes in ER sheets. Holes coexist with uniform sheet regions and are distinct from tubular ER structures. The curvature-stabilizing reticulon protein Rtn4 localizes to these holes and the ER luminal tether Climp63 controls their diameter and mobility. Analytical modeling demonstrates that holes in ER sheets can serve as reservoirs for curvature-stabilizing proteins to support ER tubule extension and retraction, thus providing an explanation for how the ER locally alters its morphology on fast time-scales.

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