Lipid droplets (LDs) are important cellular organelles that govern the storage and turnover of lipids. Little is known about how the size of LDs is controlled, although LDs of diverse sizes have been observed in different tissues and under different (patho)physiological conditions. Recent studies have indicated that the size of LDs may influence adipogenesis, the rate of lipolysis and the oxidation of fatty acids. Here, a genome-wide screen identifies ten yeast mutants producing “supersized” LDs that are up to 50 times the volume of those in wild-type cells. The mutated genes include: FLD1, which encodes a homologue of mammalian seipin; five genes (CDS1, INO2, INO4, CHO2, and OPI3) that are known to regulate phospholipid metabolism; two genes (CKB1 and CKB2) encoding subunits of the casein kinase 2; and two genes (MRPS35 and RTC2) of unknown function. Biochemical and genetic analyses reveal that a common feature of these mutants is an increase in the level of cellular phosphatidic acid (PA). Results from in vivo and in vitro analyses indicate that PA may facilitate the coalescence of contacting LDs, resulting in the formation of “supersized” LDs. In summary, our results provide important insights into how the size of LDs is determined and identify novel gene products that regulate phospholipid metabolism.
Lipid droplets (LD) are primary lipid storage structures that also function in membrane and lipid trafficking, protein turnover, and the reproduction of deadly viruses. Increased LD accumulation in liver, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissue is a hallmark of the metabolic syndrome. Enlarged LDs are often found in these tissues under disease conditions. However, little is known about how the size of LDs is controlled in eukaryotic cells. In this study, we use genetic and biochemical methods to identify important gene products that regulate the size of the LDs. Notably, a common feature among these mutants with “supersized” LDs is an increased level of phosphatidic acid (PA). We also show that a small amount of PA can increase the size of artificial LDs in vitro. Overall, our study identifies important lipids and proteins in determining LD size. These results provide valuable insights into how human cells/tissues handle abnormal influx of lipids in today's obesogenic environment.