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Abstract Submission Deadline 28 February 2023
Manuscript Submission Deadline 31 May 2023

Cellular membranes are fundamental components of life and serve as scaffolds for a wide variety of primary metabolisms such as ATP synthesis, respiration, phototrophy, endocytosis, and ion transport. These metabolisms are sustained by sophisticated and dynamic membrane regulation systems. Terpenoids, also known as isoprenoids, have increasingly gained attention because of their central roles in membrane organization and regulation in many organisms across the three domains of life. Prime examples are sterols that are universally distributed in eukaryotes. The unique lipid-lipid and lipid-protein interactions of sterols are the molecular basis for the establishment of a highly dynamic membrane system, which was an indispensable part of eukaryogenesis. In addition to sterols, many terpenoids such as hopanoids, carotenoids, squalene and polyprenols have been suggested to take part in the regulation of cellular membranes (e.g. Functional Membrane Microdomains). The large structural diversity of terpenoids and their ubiquitous distribution in the three domains of life make these compounds distinct from other membrane components, such as fatty acids that are nearly absent in Archaea. Addressing the biochemical and biophysical properties that enable terpenoids to act as diverse membrane regulators is important to understand the molecular driving forces that shaped cellular life.

The underlying molecular mechanisms of membrane organization and regulation by terpenoids are still poorly understood. Terpenoids are present in both the bacterial-type membrane that is made of fatty acids and the archaeal-type membrane that is itself made of terpenoids. However, it has never been adequately examined if any aspects of membrane organization and regulation by terpenoids is shared between the two types of membranes. Also, terpenoids themselves have evolved over the geological time scale under various ecological and environmental settings. However, the trajectory of terpenoid evolution is yet to be fully understood. This research call takes the initiative to establish a unified perspective for the ubiquity and versatility of terpenoids in membrane organization and regulation in the evolutionary context. Multidisciplinary approaches can be taken to understand the multi-faceted terpenoid-membrane relationship. They include physiological, biochemical and biophysical characterizations of terpenoids in membranes, phylogenomic comparisons of terpenoid biosynthesis and regulatory pathways between the three domains, molecular dynamics simulations of lipid-lipid and lipid-protein interactions, state-of-the-art imaging of lipid molecules and systematic analyses of terpenoid fossils in the geological record.

This research call invites both original research articles and review articles. The topical coverage of the call includes 1) studies that further deepen our understanding of membrane organization and regulation for individual terpenoid classes or taxonomic groups and 2) studies that focus on the membrane evolution and the roles of terpenoids. For instance, membrane regulation by terpenoids is relatively well studied in only specific eukaryotic lineages such as animals and plants, while membrane regulations in microbial eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea are underexplored, even though they may retain important evolutionary information about the sophistication of membrane systems (e.g. sterols in bacteria). Also, studies that address archaeal membrane regulation, which is largely unknown relative to bacterial and eukaryotic regulation systems, would be highly beneficial. Further, studies that compare terpenoids and other biomolecules as membrane components and regulators could provide important implications for the emergence of cellular entity and subsequent diversifications between the three domains. Lastly, studies about molecular fossils of terpenoids in the geological record provide valuable information about the evolutionary trajectory of terpenoids and associated ancient ecosystems.

Keywords: Terpenoid, Isoprenoid, Cellular membrane, Membrane regulation, Membrane evolution


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Cellular membranes are fundamental components of life and serve as scaffolds for a wide variety of primary metabolisms such as ATP synthesis, respiration, phototrophy, endocytosis, and ion transport. These metabolisms are sustained by sophisticated and dynamic membrane regulation systems. Terpenoids, also known as isoprenoids, have increasingly gained attention because of their central roles in membrane organization and regulation in many organisms across the three domains of life. Prime examples are sterols that are universally distributed in eukaryotes. The unique lipid-lipid and lipid-protein interactions of sterols are the molecular basis for the establishment of a highly dynamic membrane system, which was an indispensable part of eukaryogenesis. In addition to sterols, many terpenoids such as hopanoids, carotenoids, squalene and polyprenols have been suggested to take part in the regulation of cellular membranes (e.g. Functional Membrane Microdomains). The large structural diversity of terpenoids and their ubiquitous distribution in the three domains of life make these compounds distinct from other membrane components, such as fatty acids that are nearly absent in Archaea. Addressing the biochemical and biophysical properties that enable terpenoids to act as diverse membrane regulators is important to understand the molecular driving forces that shaped cellular life.

The underlying molecular mechanisms of membrane organization and regulation by terpenoids are still poorly understood. Terpenoids are present in both the bacterial-type membrane that is made of fatty acids and the archaeal-type membrane that is itself made of terpenoids. However, it has never been adequately examined if any aspects of membrane organization and regulation by terpenoids is shared between the two types of membranes. Also, terpenoids themselves have evolved over the geological time scale under various ecological and environmental settings. However, the trajectory of terpenoid evolution is yet to be fully understood. This research call takes the initiative to establish a unified perspective for the ubiquity and versatility of terpenoids in membrane organization and regulation in the evolutionary context. Multidisciplinary approaches can be taken to understand the multi-faceted terpenoid-membrane relationship. They include physiological, biochemical and biophysical characterizations of terpenoids in membranes, phylogenomic comparisons of terpenoid biosynthesis and regulatory pathways between the three domains, molecular dynamics simulations of lipid-lipid and lipid-protein interactions, state-of-the-art imaging of lipid molecules and systematic analyses of terpenoid fossils in the geological record.

This research call invites both original research articles and review articles. The topical coverage of the call includes 1) studies that further deepen our understanding of membrane organization and regulation for individual terpenoid classes or taxonomic groups and 2) studies that focus on the membrane evolution and the roles of terpenoids. For instance, membrane regulation by terpenoids is relatively well studied in only specific eukaryotic lineages such as animals and plants, while membrane regulations in microbial eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea are underexplored, even though they may retain important evolutionary information about the sophistication of membrane systems (e.g. sterols in bacteria). Also, studies that address archaeal membrane regulation, which is largely unknown relative to bacterial and eukaryotic regulation systems, would be highly beneficial. Further, studies that compare terpenoids and other biomolecules as membrane components and regulators could provide important implications for the emergence of cellular entity and subsequent diversifications between the three domains. Lastly, studies about molecular fossils of terpenoids in the geological record provide valuable information about the evolutionary trajectory of terpenoids and associated ancient ecosystems.

Keywords: Terpenoid, Isoprenoid, Cellular membrane, Membrane regulation, Membrane evolution


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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