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Dynamic reorganization of flotillins in chemokine-stimulated human T-lymphocytes

Sarah Affentranger1, Sibylla Martinelli1, Jonas Hahn1, Jérémie Rossy12 and Verena Niggli1*

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. of Pathology, University of Bern, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland

2 Present address: Membrane Biology Group, Centre for Vascular Research, University of New South Wales, Lowy Cancer Research Centre, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia

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BMC Cell Biology 2011, 12:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-12-28

Published: 22 June 2011



Different types of membrane microdomains (rafts) have been postulated to be present in the rear and front of polarized migrating T-lymphocytes. Disruption of rafts by cholesterol sequestration prevents T-cell polarization and migration. Reggie/flotillin-1 and -2 are two highly homologous proteins that are thought to shape membrane microdomains. We have previously demonstrated the enrichment of flotillins in the uropod of human neutrophils. We have now investigated mechanisms involved in chemokine-induced flotillin reorganization in human T-lymphocytes, and possible roles of flotillins in lymphocyte polarization.


We studied flotillin reorganization and lateral mobility at the plasma membrane using immunofluorescence staining and FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching). We show that flotillins redistribute early upon chemokine stimulation, and form very stable caps in the uropods of human peripheral blood T-lymphocytes, colocalizing with the adhesion molecule PSGL-1 and activated ezrin/radixin/moesin (ERM) proteins. Chemokine-induced formation of stable flotillin caps requires integrity and dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton, but is not abolished by inhibitors suppressing Rho-kinase or myosin II activity. Tagged flotillin-2 and flotillin-1 coexpressed in T-lymphocytes, but not singly expressed proteins, colocalize in stable caps at the tips of uropods. Lateral mobility of coexpressed flotillins at the plasma membrane is already partially restricted in the absence of chemokine. Incubation with chemokine results in almost complete immobilization of flotillins. Capping is abolished when wild-type flotillin-1 is coexpressed with a mutant of flotillin-2 (G2A) that is unable to interact with the plasma membrane, or with a deletion mutant of flotillin-2 that lacks a putative actin-binding domain. Wild-type flotillin-2 in contrast forms caps when coexpressed with a mutant of flotillin-1 unable to interact with membranes. Transfection of T-lymphocytes with flotillin-2-G2A reduces cell polarization and uropod recruitment of endogenous flotillin-1 and PSGL-1.


Our data suggest that stable flotillin cap formation in the rear of polarized T-lymphocytes requires flotillin heterooligomer formation, as well as direct F-actin interactions of flotillin-2 and raft/membrane association of flotillin-2, but not -1. Our data also implicate flotillin-rich actin-dependent membrane microdomains in T-lymphocyte uropod formation.