Lipid Chemistry Empowers Nuclear Shape

The cell nucleus is surrounded by a spherical double membrane called the nuclear envelope. Scientists have long been intrigued by how this envelope can be elastic enough to accommodate shape changes that cells experience as they move through tissues, but also rigid enough to maintain nuclear integrity. A study by Anete Romanauska and Alwin Köhler, published in Nature Cell Biology, uncovers that the chemistry of membrane lipids is key for this versatility. When this chemistry is perturbed, the nuclear membranes become stiff and prone to rupture, and nuclei lose their typical round shape and morph into a polyhedron.

Lipid saturation shapes geometry of cell nucleus (c) Alwin Köhler, Max Perutz Labs Balanced lipid saturation is essential for nuclear envelope and nuclear pore complex architecture and function. Romanauska and Köhler identify mechanisms that prevent a cell nucleus from becoming edgy, as seen in the EM-based 3D reconstruction of the nuclear envelope (gold) and endoplasmic reticulum (blue).

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