The authors show that lipid droplets form from different regions of fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe cells based on the dominant neutral lipid of the nascent droplet. Droplets that are enriched in sterol esters form at the tips of polarized cells, whereas droplets that are enriched in triacylglycerols (TAGs) form around the nucleus. Elimination of TAGs completely abolishes lipid droplets, instead vesicle-shaped BODIPY 493/503 structures are observed. Thus, TAG seems necessary for lipid droplet biogenesis in these yeast cells.
Eukaryotic cells store cholesterol/sterol esters (SEs) and triacylglycerols (TAGs) in lipid droplets, which form from the contiguous endoplasmic reticulum (ER) network. However, it is not known if droplets preferentially form from certain regions of the ER over others. Here, we used fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe cells where the nuclear and cortical/peripheral ER domains are distinguishable by light microscopy to show that SE-enriched lipid droplets form away from the nucleus at the cell tips, whereas TAG-enriched lipid droplets form around the nucleus. Sterols localize to the regions of the cells where droplets enriched in SEs are observed. TAG droplet formation around the nucleus appears to be a strong function of diacylglycerol (DAG) homeostasis with Cpt1p, which coverts DAG into phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine localized exclusively to the nuclear ER. Also, Dgk1p, which converts DAG into phosphatidic acid localized strongly to the nuclear ER over the cortical/peripheral ER. We also show that TAG more readily translocates from the ER to lipid droplets than do SEs. The results augment the standard lipid droplet formation model, which has SEs and TAGs flowing into the same nascent lipid droplet regardless of its biogenesis point in the cell.