We have long known that lipids traffic between cellular membranes via vesicles but have only recently appreciated the role of nonvesicular lipid transport. Nonvesicular transport can be high volume, supporting biogenesis of rapidly expanding membranes, or more targeted and precise, allowing cells to rapidly alter levels of specific lipids in membranes. Most such transport probably occurs at membrane contact sites, where organelles are closely apposed, and requires lipid transport proteins (LTPs), which solubilize lipids to shield them from the aqueous phase during their transport between membranes. Some LTPs are cup like and shuttle lipid monomers between membranes. Others form conduits allowing lipid flow between membranes. This review describes what we know about nonvesicular lipid transfer mechanisms while also identifying many remaining unknowns: How do LTPs facilitate lipid movement from and into membranes, do LTPs require accessory proteins for efficient transfer in vivo, and how is directionality of transport determined?

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