T H E J O U R N A L O F C E L L B I O L O G Y
© The Rockefeller University Press $8.00
The Journal of Cell Biology, Vol. 174, No. 1, July 3, 2006 11–17
An important conceptual advance in our understanding of the
basic principles of cellular organization is that the peroxisome,
an organelle known for its essential role in lipid metabolism,
is derived from the ER (Titorenko et al., 1997; Titorenko and
Rachubinski, 1998; Mullen et al., 1999; Hoepfner et al., 2005;
Kragt et al., 2005; Tam et al., 2005; Haan et al., 2006; Kim et al.,
2006). A growing body of evidence also supports the view that
peroxisomes, similar to the secretory endomembrane system of
vesicular fl ow, constitute a multicompartmental endomembrane
system in which individual compartments undergo a stepwise,
time-ordered conversion into mature, metabolically active per-
oxisomes (Titorenko et al., 2000; Titorenko and Rachubinski,
2000; Geuze et al., 2003; Guo et al., 2003). All of these fi ndings
contradict the common textbook rendition of the peroxisome
as a semiautonomous, static, and homogenous subcellular com-
partment whose assembly, as an organelle outside the secretory
and endocytic pathways of vesicular fl ow, does not involve in-
tercompartmental vesicular traffi cking (Lazarow, 2003). Now,
as this basic paradigm of cellular organization is about to be re-
vised in cell biology textbooks (Kunau, 2005; Schekman, 2005),
there is an urgent need to recapitulate numerous observations on
the dynamic nature of the ER-dependent process of peroxisome
assembly. The scope of this paper is to summarize the grow-
ing evidence in support of a role for the ER as the template for
the formation and maintenance of peroxisomes. We also dis-
cuss our current knowledge of the multistep, bidirectional fl ow
of membrane-enclosed protein carriers through the ER-derived
peroxisomal endomembrane system. In addition, we outline the
most important unanswered questions and directions for future
research in this vibrant and rapidly evolving fi eld.
Targeting of peroxisomal membrane
proteins (PMPs) to the ER
and their sorting within the ER
The origin of peroxisomes has long been matter of debate, and
partially underscoring this controversy has been the mode by
which peroxisome-destined proteins are synthesized and tar-
geted within the cell. For instance, a major tenant of the previ-
ous “ER-vesiculation” model for peroxisome biogenesis was
that all of the soluble and membrane bound protein constituents
of the peroxisome were synthesized cotranslationally on the
ER (Beevers, 1979). These nascent proteins were proposed to
then be sequestered into an expanding vesicle that would
eventually bud from the ER to produce a mature, functional
peroxisome (Beevers, 1979). However, subsequent observa-
tions suggested that peroxisomal proteins were not synthesized
on the ER but on free polyribosomes in the cytosol. These and
other data led to the “growth and division” model for peroxi-
some biogenesis wherein peroxisomes, like mitochondria and
chloroplasts, were considered to increase in size by the post-
translational import of their protein constituents and proliferate
only through the division of preexisting peroxisomes (Lazarow
and Fujiki, 1985; Purdue and Lazarow, 2001; Lazarow, 2003).
Notably, the ER in the “growth and division” model was deemed
only to be a source of membrane lipids for the enlargement of
Although for most of the past two decades the “growth
and division” model has generally been considered the para-
digm for peroxisome biogenesis, the recent monitoring of the
sorting of various PMPs in evolutionarily diverse organisms has
revealed that for at least a subset of these PMPs, referred to
as group I PMPs (Titorenko and Rachubinski, 2001), the initial
sorting site is the ER rather than the peroxisome membrane.
Peroxisome biogenesis: the peroxisomal
endomembrane system and the role of the ER
Vladimir I. Titorenko1 and Robert T. Mullen2
1Department of Biology, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec H4B 1R6, Canada
2Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada
Peroxisomes have long been viewed as semiautonomous,
static, and homogenous organelles that exist outside the
secretory and endocytic pathways of vesicular fl ow. How-
ever, growing evidence supports the view that peroxi-
somes actually constitute a dynamic endomembrane
system that originates from the endoplasmic reticulum.
This review highlights the various strategies used by evo-
lutionarily diverse organisms for coordinating the fl ow of
membrane-enclosed carriers through the peroxisomal endo-
membrane system and critically evaluates the dynamics
and molecular mechanisms of this multistep process.
Correspondence to Vladimir I. Titorenko: VTITOR@vax2.concordia.ca; or
Robert T. Mullen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abbreviations used in this paper: APX, ascorbate peroxidase; ARF, ADP-
ribosylation factor; COP, coat protein complex; ERPIC, ER–peroxisome inter-
mediate compartment; pER, peroxisomal ER; PMP, peroxisomal membrane
protein; TBSV, tomato bushy stunt virus; tER, transitional ER.
JCB • VOLUME 174 • NUMBER 1 • 2006 12
Sorting of group I PMPs to and within the ER also appears to
be mediated by several different mechanisms (Fig. 1). For in-
stance, in mammalian cells, the group I PMP Pex16p is inserted
cotranslationally into ER membranes and seems to be localized
throughout the entire ER before its sorting to peroxisomes (Kim
et al., 2006). In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Yarrowia
lipolytica, and Hansenula polymorpha, group I PMPs Pex2p, -3p,
and -16p are also initially targeted to the “general” ER
(Titorenko and Rachubinski, 1998; Hoepfner et al., 2005; Haan
et al., 2006). However, unlike mammalian Pex16p, the ER target-
ing and insertion of these essential components of peroxisome
assembly in S. cerevisiae does not require the Sec61p- dependent
machinery for co- and posttranslational import of secretory
proteins (South et al., 2001). Furthermore, unlike mammalian
Pex16p that remains in the general ER before its sorting to per-
oxisomes (Kim et al., 2006), at least one of the group I PMPs
in S. cerevisiae, namely, Pex3p, is directed from the general ER
to a distinct subdomain of the ER (Hoepfner et al., 2005). This
ER subdomain is referred to as the preperoxisomal template
(Titorenko and Rachubinski, 2001) and is considered to be the
site where preperoxisomal carriers are formed. That is, after being
segregated into the preperoxisomal template, Pex3p serves as
a docking factor for Pex19p, a predominantly cytosolic protein
(Hoepfner et al., 2005). The Pex3p-dependent recruitment of
Pex19p from the cytosol to the outer face of the preperoxisomal
template in S. cerevisiae is mandatory for the budding of small
preperoxisomal vesicles (Hoepfner et al., 2005). These ER-
derived carriers of Pex2p, -3p, -16p, and -19p lack secretory
cargo proteins (Titorenko et al., 1997).
Although the mechanism responsible for segregating
group I PMPs from secretory and ER resident membrane
proteins in yeast remains to be established, it is noteworthy that
the membrane of the ER-derived preperoxisomal vesicles in
Y. lipolytica has unusual ergosterol- and ceramide-rich lipid
domains (Boukh-Viner et al., 2005). These lipid domains are
similar to detergent-resistant lipid domains in the membrane of
S. cerevisiae ER, where glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored
secretory proteins cluster and thereby segregate from other
secretory proteins (Mayor and Riezman, 2004). It is possible,
therefore, that discrete lipid domains, perhaps ergosterol- and
ceramide-rich lipid domains, in the membrane of yeast ER
serve also as a sorting platform for segregating group I PMPs
from secretory and ER resident membrane proteins. The result-
ing partitioning of group I PMPs into these membrane domains
could also serve to generate an ER template for the formation of
In contrast to yeast Pex2p, -3p, and -16p and mamma-
lian Pex16p, other group I PMPs, such as ascorbate peroxidase
(APX) in plant cells (Mullen et al., 1999) and Pex13p in mouse
dendritic cells (Geuze et al., 2003), can only be detected in a
distinct portion of the ER, suggesting that they are targeted
from the cytosol directly to a preexisting subdomain of the ER
membrane. The terms peroxisomal ER (pER) and lamellar ER
extension were coined for this ER found in plants and mice,
respectively (Mullen et al., 2001; Tabak et al., 2003). At least
one notable difference between these two ER subdomains is
that pER is considered to be a portion of rough ER membrane
(Lisenbee et al., 2003), whereas the lamellar ER extension is
Figure 1. Generalized models for the fl ow of
membrane-enclosed carriers through the per-
oxisomal endomembrane system in yeast, mam-
mals, and plants. PPT, preperoxisomal template;
PPV, preperoxisomal vesicle; SV, secretory vesi-
cle; TBSV p33, TSBV 33-kD replicase protein.
ER ORIGIN OF PEROXISOMES • TITORENKO AND MULLEN13
a specialized domain in smooth ER membrane (Geuze et al.,
2003). In plant cells, the cytosol-to-pER targeting of APX
occurs posttranslationally and requires ATP as well as at least
three components of the Hsp70 chaperone machinery (Mullen
et al., 1999).
Collectively, the aforementioned fi ndings suggest that by
segregating a distinct set of membrane proteins and lipids into
specialized ER subdomains, plant and mouse dendritic cells
have evolved a platform for the targeting of group I PMPs from
the cytosol to the ER membrane. The existence of such a
platform in the ER membrane could increase the effi ciency of
the ER-dependent, multistep process of peroxisome assembly
in these cells.
What structural features of group I PMPs are crucial for
their sorting to the ER or to the peroxisomal membrane via
either general ER or an ER subdomain remain to be determined.
At present, it seems that the targeting of these PMPs from
the cytosol to the ER membrane and their subsequent exit
from the ER are mediated by two partially overlapping sets
of sorting signals. One set of signals targets group I PMPs
either co- or posttranslationally to the general ER or an ER
subdomain, whereas the other set of signals act from within
the ER lumen to sort these PMPs to the peroxisome (Baerends
et al., 1996; Elgersma et al., 1997; Mullen and Trelease, 2000;
Kim et al., 2006).
Exit of PMPs from the ER via
Although all group I PMPs exit the ER via distinct preperoxi-
somal carriers that do not enter the classical secretory pathway
of vesicular fl ow (Titorenko and Rachubinski, 1998; Geuze
et al., 2003), the morphology of these carriers in at least yeast
and mammalian cells appears to differ (Fig. 1). In S. cerevisiae,
Y. lipolytica, and H. polymorpha, the ER-derived preperoxisomal
carriers are small vesicles (Titorenko and Rachubinski, 1998;
Hoepfner et al., 2005; Haan et al., 2006). In contrast, the prep-
eroxisomal carriers in mouse dendritic cells arise through direct
en block protrusion of the specialized ER subdomain, the
lamellar ER extension (Geuze et al., 2003). After reaching a
considerable size, the lamellar extension detaches from the ER,
giving rise to pleomorphic tubular-saccular carriers of group I
PMPs. This detachment of preperoxisomal tubular-saccular
carriers from the ER does not require coat protein complexes
(COPs) I and II, which function in the formation of ER-derived
carriers for secretory proteins (Geuze et al., 2003).
It is noteworthy that, akin to ER-derived preperoxisomal
carriers in yeast cells, all known types of transport carriers for
secretory proteins are small vesicles in these cells (Lee et al.,
2004). On the contrary, just like the preperoxisomal carriers in
mammalian cells, at least a subset of ER-to-Golgi carriers for
many secretory proteins in these cells are pleomorphic tubular-
saccular structures that are formed through direct en block pro-
trusion of specialized domains in the ER membrane (Watson
and Stephens, 2005). This fundamental difference in the mor-
phology of ER-derived transport carriers is likely due to the
difference in the spatial organization of transitional ER (tER),
a specialized ER subdomain at which proteins are packaged
into membrane-enclosed carriers. In the traditionally used
model yeast organism, S. cerevisiae, the entire ER acts as tER,
facilitating the budding of COPII-coated vesicles (Rossanese et al.,
1999). In contrast, the tER of mammalian cells is organized
into discrete ER export sites (Hammond and Glick, 2000). It is
therefore possible that by segregating a distinct set of mem-
brane proteins and lipids into a specialized ER subdomain for
the cytosol-to-ER targeting of group I PMPs (see the previous
section), higher eukaryotic organisms have not only separated
these domains from the sites for the ER targeting of secretory
proteins but also developed a platform for the sculpturing
of these pER subdomains into pleomorphic tubular-saccular
carriers of PMPs. A critical evaluation of this hypothesis would
require testing the spatial organization of the ER subdomains
for the cytosol-to-ER targeting of group I PMPs and examining
the morphology of ER-derived carriers for these PMPs in
the yeast Pichia pastoris. Unlike S. cerevisiae and similar to
mammals, P. pastoris has discrete tER export sites that give
rise to a “conventional” mammalian-type secretory apparatus
(Rossanese et al., 1999).
Presently, no solid data exist for the nature of the preper-
oxisomal carriers in plant cells, although, similar to mammals,
the tER in these cells is restricted to discrete sites in the ER
membrane (Hanton et al., 2005), suggesting that the organiza-
tion of the pER subdomain as well as the formation of preper-
oxisomal carriers in plants is similar to that in mammals.
of the peroxisomal endomembrane system
Recent fi ndings have provided strong evidence that, analogous
to some organelles of the secretory endomembrane system, per-
oxisomes constitute a dynamic organelle population consisting
of many structurally distinct compartments that differ in their
import competency for various proteins. Moreover, it appears
that the individual compartments of this peroxisomal endo-
membrane system undergo a multistep conversion to mature
peroxisomes in a time-ordered manner.
Two multistep pathways for peroxisome assembly and
maturation have been described (Fig. 1). In Y. lipolytica, the
posttranslational sorting of two partially overlapping sets of
PMPs and a few matrix proteins converts two populations of
ER-derived preperoxisomal vesicular carriers into the small
(75–100 nm) peroxisomal vesicles P1 and P2 (Titorenko et al.,
2000). These vesicles then serve as the earliest intermediates in
a multistep pathway that involves, at each step, the uptake of
lipids and the selective import of matrix proteins, eventually re-
sulting in the formation of a mature peroxisome referred to as
P6 (Guo et al., 2003). Overall, it seems that in Y. lipolytica and
perhaps in other yeast, import machineries specifi c for different
peroxisomal matrix proteins undergo a temporally ordered as-
sembly in distinct vesicular intermediates along the peroxisome
maturation pathway (Titorenko and Rachubinski, 2001). The
plasticity of these import machineries is further underscored by
the observation that the effi ciency with which they recognize
nonoverlapping targeting signals present on some of their pro-
tein substrates varies under different metabolic conditions. In
fact, peroxisomal subforms present in yeast cells growing under
JCB • VOLUME 174 • NUMBER 1 • 2006 14
conditions that induce peroxisome proliferation differ from
basal, nonproliferated subforms with respect to the targeting
sequence motifs that are used to direct the same protein to these
different subforms of peroxisomes (Wang et al., 2004).
A quite different scenario orchestrates a multistep process
of peroxisome assembly and maturation in mouse dendritic
cells. Herein, the extrusion of the lamellar ER extensions is cul-
minated by the detachment of pleomorphic tubular-saccular
carriers of Pex13p from the ER (Geuze et al., 2003). Only after
their separation from the ER are these preperoxisomal carriers
able to recruit to their membranes the ATP binding cassette
transporter protein PMP70 and, perhaps, the membrane compo-
nents of the import machinery for peroxisomal matrix proteins
(Tabak et al., 2003). This latter step of the peroxisome matura-
tion pathway also results in the formation of the so-called per-
oxisomal reticulum. Only the peroxisomal reticulum is capable
of importing at least two peroxisomal matrix proteins, namely,
thiolase and catalase, directly from the cytosol (Geuze et al.,
2003). Notably, these two peroxisomal matrix proteins do not
fi ll the entire peroxisomal reticulum. Instead, they are sorted
exclusively into mature globular peroxisomes that, during
the fi nal step in the peroxisome maturation pathway in mouse
cells, bud from the peroxisomal reticulum (Geuze et al., 2003;
Tabak et al., 2003). It remains to be established whether other
peroxisomal matrix proteins, similar to thiolase and catalase,
are imported into the domain of the peroxisomal reticulum that
gives rise to mature globular peroxisomes or whether, alterna-
tively, these other matrix proteins in mouse cells are sorted to
globular (mature) peroxisomes only after their budding from
the peroxisomal reticulum.
In both models for the multistep assembly and maturation
of peroxisomes, the targeting of PMPs to the membrane of the
early intermediates in a pathway precedes, and is mandatory
for, the import of soluble peroxisomal proteins into the matrix
of later intermediates. Because this strategy for peroxisome bio-
genesis has been conserved in the course of evolution, it seem-
ingly provides an important advantage for the effi cient, stepwise
assembly of mature, metabolically active peroxisomes. It re-
mains to be established whether, similar to a stepwise assembly
of import machineries specifi c for different peroxisomal matrix
proteins in yeast cells (Titorenko and Rachubinski, 2001), the
import machineries for such proteins in mammalian cells can
undergo a temporally ordered assembly in distinct intermedi-
ates along the peroxisome maturation pathway.
It is also unclear at the moment whether the peroxisome
maturation pathway acting in mammalian cells, akin to the path-
way that functions in yeast cells (Titorenko and Rachubinski,
2000; Titorenko et al., 2000), includes fusion of any early path-
way intermediates. It is tempting to speculate that such fusion
of early pathway intermediates in yeast results in the formation
of an ER–peroxisome intermediate compartment (ERPIC).
Such a compartment could (1) provide a template for the forma-
tion of downstream intermediates in the peroxisome assembly
and maturation pathway and (2) function in the sorting of PMPs
from those escaped ER resident proteins that are retrieved by
retrograde vesicular transport between the ERPIC and the ER.
Both of these tentative functions of the ERPIC share similarity
with the functions that have been proposed for the ER–Golgi
intermediate compartment, also known as vesicular tubular
clusters, which may regulate a bidirectional traffi c of membrane-
enclosed carriers through the classical secretory pathway (Lee
et al., 2004). Importantly, the resident proteins of the post-ER
compartments in both the peroxisomal endomembrane system
and the classical secretory system return to the ER in response
to the treatment of yeast cells with brefeldin A, an inhibitor of
COPI formation (Salomons et al., 1997). Thus, similar to its
role in the secretory endomembrane system, yeast COPI can
function in the retrieval of those ER resident proteins that had
entered the peroxisomal endomembrane system by mistake.
This is in contrast to COPI in cultured human fi broblasts, in
which peroxisome-to-ER retrograde protein transport, if any,
does not depend on COPI (South et al., 2000; Voorn-Brouwer
et al., 2001). These fi ndings further support the notion that yeast
and higher eukaryotic organisms may use different strategies
for the ER-dependent formation and maintenance of their per-
oxisomal endomembrane systems.
Although it is not yet known whether, in plants, a multistep
pathway for peroxisome assembly and maturation exits that is
either similar or distinct from that in yeast and/or mammals,
recent fi ndings suggest that peroxisomes in plant cells can form
large pleomorphic structures reminiscent of the mammalian
peroxisomal reticulum (Mullen et al., 2006) and are engaged in
ER-destined retrograde vesicular fl ow (Fig. 1). Evidence for
this latter conclusion comes from observations that when the
tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV) replication protein p33 is ex-
pressed on its own in plant cells, it is sorted initially from the
cytosol to peroxisomes and then, via peroxisome-derived vesi-
cles and together with resident PMPs, to the pER (McCartney
et al., 2005). Remarkably, several aspects of the peroxisome-
to-pER sorting of p33- and resident PMP–laden vesicles are
similar to the Golgi-to-ER retrograde vesicular transport. For
instance, both these processes depend on the ADP- ribosylation
factor (ARF) 1, which promotes the formation of COPI-coated
vesicles (Lee et al., 2004; McCartney et al., 2005). In addition,
the targeting signal of p33 that mediates the sorting of peroxisomal-
derived vesicles to the pER resembles an arginine-based motif
responsible for the COPI-dependent, vesicle-mediated retrieval
of escaped ER membrane proteins from the Golgi (McCartney
et al., 2005). Based on these and other observations, it has
been suggested that the p33-promoted peroxisome-to-pER
retrograde transport of vesicles delivers to the pER “early
peroxins” (membrane bound peroxins involved in the early
stages of peroxisomal membrane assembly) that stimulate
the formation of membrane-enclosed carriers of PMPs as an
essential phase of the TBSV life cycle (McCartney et al., 2005;
Mullen et al., 2006). It is not clear at the moment whether
the proposed reverse protein sorting pathway between peroxi-
somes and ER can only be induced in TBSV-infected plant
cells or if it can also function in uninfected plants, or in other
organisms, as a mechanism for the retrieval of escaped ER
ER ORIGIN OF PEROXISOMES • TITORENKO AND MULLEN15
Coordination of compartment assembly
and division in the peroxisomal
In addition to their proposed role in the peroxisome-to-ER
retrograde protein transport in virus-infected plant cells, both
ARF1 and COPI can induce the proliferation of the peroxisomal
endomembrane system in other evolutionarily diverse organ-
isms by promoting the membrane scission event required for
peroxisome division (Fig. 1). In fact, yeast mutants impaired in
ARF1 and COPI, as well as mammalian cells defi cient in COPI
assembly, accumulate a reduced number of elongated tubular
peroxisomes, consistent with impairment in peroxisome vesicu-
lation (Passreiter et al., 1998; Lay et al., 2005). Incubation of
highly purifi ed rat liver peroxisomes with cytosol results in spe-
cifi c binding of both ARF1 and COPI to the peroxisomal mem-
brane, further supporting the notion that their recruitment from
the cytosol in living cells is an initial event in the proliferation
of the peroxisomal endomembrane system (Anton et al., 2000).
Moreover, similar to ARF1, the subtype 3 of yeast ARF also
controls peroxisome division in vivo, although, in contrast to
ARF1, in a negative fashion (Lay et al., 2005). Collectively,
these fi ndings suggest that the peroxisomal endomembrane sys-
tem and the classical secretory system of vesicular fl ow are
served by a similar set of core protein components required for
their communication with the ER and for their proliferation.
The proliferation of the individual compartments of the peroxi-
somal endomembrane system is also driven by a peroxisome-
specifi c protein machinery, which includes a distinct set of the
PMPs and the dynamin-related proteins DLP1 (dynamin-like
protein 1), DRP3A (dynamin-related protein 3A), and Vps1p
(vacuolar protein sorting protein 1), recruited from the cytosol
to the peroxisomal surface by their receptor Fis1p (Thoms and
Erdmann, 2005; Yan et al., 2005). A challenge for the future will
be to defi ne how the interplay of all these protein components
governs such proliferation under the different metabolic condi-
tions in a given cell type or tissue.
Importantly, peroxisome biogenesis appears to occur by
way of a collaborative effort between two equally important
pathways. The fi rst pathway operates through the ER-dependent
formation and maturation of the individual compartments of the
peroxisomal endomembrane system, whereas the second path-
way involves the precisely controlled division of these peroxi-
somal compartments. Growing evidence supports the view that
cells have evolved at least two strategies for the coordination of
compartment assembly and division in the peroxisomal endo-
membrane system. In the fi rst strategy, the multistep growth and
maturation of the ER-derived preperoxisomal carriers occurs
before the completely assembled, mature peroxisomes undergo
division (Guo et al., 2003). In the second strategy, a signifi cant
increase in the number of preperoxisomal carriers, either by
their en masse formation from the ER (Kim et al., 2006) or
by the proliferation of a few preexisting carriers (Veenhuis
and Goodman, 1990; Guo et al., 2003), precedes the growth of
these early peroxisomal precursors by membrane and matrix
protein import and their conversion to mature, functional
organelles containing a complete complement of peroxisomal
proteins. Deter mining the relative contribution of these different
mechanisms in the formation of peroxisomes in any given or-
ganism should now be more feasible through the use of live-
cell, photo/pulse-chase labeling methods similar to that reported
recently for a study of peroxisome biogenesis in mammalian
cells (Kim et al., 2006).
Regardless of the strategies that evolutionarily distant
organisms use for coordinating the assembly and division of
individual compartments of the peroxisomal endomembrane
system, the tubulation, constriction, and scission of these com-
partments is regulated, depending on the cellular and/or envi-
ronmental conditions of a particular cell type, either by signals
emanating from within these compartments (Guo et al., 2003)
or by extraperoxisomal signals that are generated inside the
cell in response to certain extracellular stimuli (Yan et al.,
2005). These intracellular signals include a distinct group of
transcriptional factors that induce the transcription of genes
encoding several proteins of the Pex11p family (Thoms and
Erdmann, 2005). The peroxisome membrane bound Pex11p-
type proteins then directly promote the proliferation of peroxi-
somal endomembrane compartments or activate peroxisome
division indirectly by recruiting the dynamin-related proteins
from the cytosol (Yan et al., 2005). Furthermore, the division
of the individual compartments of the peroxisomal endomem-
brane system must be preceded by the expansion of their mem-
branes because of the acquisition of lipids. The ER, a principal
site for the biosynthesis of phospholipids, is the most likely
source of lipids for the growth of the peroxisomal membrane
(Purdue and Lazarow, 2001), although oil bodies have been
implicated also as a source of peroxisomal lipids in some or-
ganisms, e.g., germinated oilseeds (Chapman and Trelease,
1991) and Y. lipolytica (Bascom et al., 2003). It seems that in
Y. lipolytica the bulk of phospholipids is transferred from the
donor membrane of a specialized subcompartment of the ER to
the closely apposed acceptor membranes of the two early inter-
mediates, P3 and P4, in the peroxisome assembly pathway
(Titorenko et al., 1996). Although the mechanism responsible
for such ER-to-peroxisomal membrane transfer of phospholipids
via membrane contact sites remains to be established, several
working models for the role of ER-associated lipid-transfer
proteins in the establishment and functioning of such sites have
recently been proposed (Levine, 2004). These models should
serve as a useful starting point for examining such events dur-
ing peroxisome biogenesis.
Conclusions and perspectives
Growing evidence supports the view that peroxisomes constitute
a dynamic endomembrane system that originates from the ER.
A major challenge now is to identify the molecular players that
coordinate the fl ow of membrane-enclosed carriers through the
peroxisomal endomembrane system. Future work will aim at
understanding the spatiotemporal dynamics and molecular mech-
anisms underlying this multistep process in evolutionarily diverse
organisms. It is conceivable that the analysis of a variety of model
organisms, including tissue-cultured human cell lines and various
yeast and plant species, will reveal as-yet-unknown strategies and
mechanisms governing the biogenesis of the peroxisomal endo-
membrane system and its relationship with the ER.
JCB • VOLUME 174 • NUMBER 1 • 2006 16
We thank Ian Smith for assistance with constructing Fig. 1.
This work was supported by grants 217291 (to R.T. Mullen) and
283228 (to V.I. Titorenko) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council
of Canada and grant MOP 57662 (to V.I. Titorenko) from the Canadian
Institutes of Health Research.
Submitted: 7 April 2006
Accepted: 26 May 2006
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