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J Biol Chem. 2003 Aug 22;278(34):31593-602. Epub 2003 Jun 5.

Constitutive localization of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) receptor to low density membrane microdomains is necessary for GnRH signaling to ERK.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA.


Specialized membrane microdomains known as lipid rafts are thought to contribute to G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling by organizing receptors and their cognate signaling molecules into discrete membrane domains. To determine if the GnRHR, an unusual member of the GPCR superfamily, partitions into lipid rafts, homogenates of alpha T3-1 cells expressing endogenous GnRHR or Chinese hamster ovary cells expressing an epitope-tagged GnRHR were fractionated through a sucrose gradient. We found the GnRHR and c-raf kinase constitutively localized to low density fractions independent of hormone treatment. Partitioning of c-raf kinase into lipid rafts was also observed in whole mouse pituitary glands. Consistent with GnRH induced phosphorylation and activation of c-raf kinase, GnRH treatment led to a decrease in the apparent electrophoretic mobility of c-raf kinase that partitioned into lipid rafts compared with unstimulated cells. Cholesterol depletion of alpha T3-1 cells using methyl-beta-cyclodextrin disrupted GnRHR but not c-raf kinase association with rafts and shifted the receptor into higher density fractions. Cholesterol depletion also significantly attenuated GnRH but not phorbol ester-mediated activation of extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) and c-fos gene induction. Raft localization and GnRHR signaling to ERK and c-Fos were rescued upon repletion of membrane cholesterol. Thus, the organization of the GnRHR into low density membrane microdomains appears critical in mediating GnRH induced intracellular signaling.

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