All eukaryotes store excess lipids in organelles known as lipid droplets (LDs), which play central roles in lipid metabolism. Understanding LD biogenesis and metabolism is critical for understanding the pathophysiology of lipid metabolic disorders like obesity and atherosclerosis. LDs are composed of a core of neutral lipids surrounded by a monolayer of phospholipids that often contains coat proteins. Nascent LDs bud from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) but the mechanism is not known. In this commentary we discuss our recent finding that a conserved family of proteins called fat storage-inducing transmembrane (FIT) proteins is necessary for LDs budding from the ER. In cells lacking FIT proteins, LDs remain in the ER membrane. C. elegans has a single FIT protein (FITM-2), which we found is essential; almost all homozygous fitm-2
animals die as larvae and those that survive to adulthood give rise to embryos that die as L1 and L2 larvae. Homozygous fitm-2
animals have a number of abnormalities including a significant decrease in intestinal LDs and dramatic defects in muscle development. Understanding how FIT proteins mediate LD biogenesis and what roles they play in lipid metabolism and development are fascinating challenges for the future.