Phosphatidylinositol (PI), a membrane phospholipid, can be reversibly phosphorylated at the 3, 4, and 5 positions of the inositol ring to generate seven phosphoinositides: phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PI3P), phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate (PI4P), phosphatidylinositol 5-phosphate (PI5P), phosphatidylinositol 3,4-bisphosphate PI(3,4)P2, phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate PI(4,5)P2, phosphatidylinositol 3,5-bisphosphate PI(3,5)P2, and phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate (PI(3,4,5)P3). These seven phosphoinositides, which are heterogeneously distributed within cells, can serve as signature components of different intracellular compartment membranes and so help to mediate specificity of membrane interactions. Phosphoinositide levels are tightly regulated spatially and temporally by the action of various kinases and phosphatases whilst PI(4,5)P2 is also a substrate for phospholipase C. The differential localisation of each of these enzymes on specific compartment membranes ensures maintenance of the heterogeneous distribution of phosphoinositides despite the continuous membrane flow from one compartment to another.
PI is primarily synthesised in the endoplasmic reticulum from where the phospholipid is exported to other compartments via membrane traffic or via cytosolic phospholipid transfer proteins. Phosphorylation of PI to PI4P primarily occurs in the Golgi, where PI4P plays an important role in the biogenesis of transport vesicles such as the secretory vesicle involved in its transport to the plasma membrane. At this place, PI4P has a major function acting as a precursor of PI(4,5)P2, which is located predominantly at this membrane. PI(4,5)P2 binds and regulates a wide range of proteins that function on the cell surface and serves as a precursor for second messengers. Additionally, it helps define this membrane as a target for secretory vesicles, functions as a coreceptor in endocytic processes, and functions as a cofactor for actin nucleation.
At the plasma membrane, PI(4,5)P2 is further phosphorylated to PI(3,4,5)P3, another phosphoinositide with important signalling functions including stimulating cell survival and proliferation. The inositol 3-phosphatase, phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) regenerates PI (4,5)P2, while the 5-phosphatases convert PI(3,4,5)P3 into the phosphoinositide, PI(3,4)P2, propagating the signal initiated by PI(3,4,5)P3. PI(3,4)P2 is further dephosphorylated in the endocytic pathway by inositol 4-phosphatases to PI3P, the signature phosphoinositide of the early endosomal compartment and a ligand for numerous endosomal proteins. However, the bulk of PI3P is generated directly in the endosomes by phosphorylation of PI. The subsequent endosomal phosphorylation of PI3P to PI(3,5)P2 is believed to generate docking sites for recruitment of cytosolic factors responsible for the control of outgoing traffic from the endosomes. The main localisation and function of the low abundance phosphoinositide PI5P, that can be generated by several pathways, remains to be determined (Krauss & Haucke 2007, Leventis & Grinstein 2010, Roth 2004, Gees et al. 2010, De Matteis & Godi 2004, van Meer et al. 2008, Vicinanza et al. 2008, Lemmon 2008, Kutaleladze 2010, Robinson & Dixon 2006, Blero et al. 2007, Liu & Bankaitis 2010, McCrea & De Camilli 2009, Vicinanza et al. 2008, Di Paolo & De Camilli, 2006).