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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Oct 12;101(41):14949-54. Epub 2004 Oct 4.

Sigma-1 receptors at galactosylceramide-enriched lipid microdomains regulate oligodendrocyte differentiation.

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Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 5500 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


In the brain, myelin is important in regulating nerve conduction and neurotransmitter release by providing insulation at axons. Myelin is a specialized yet continuous sheet structure of differentiated oligodendrocytes (OLs) that is enriched in lipids, specifically galactosylceramides (GalCer) originated at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). GalCer are known to affect OL differentiation. However, the mechanism whereby GalCer affect OL differentiation is not well understood. Sigma-1 receptors (Sig-1Rs), shown by us to exist in detergent-insoluble lipid microdomains at lipid-enriched loci of ER in NG108 cells, are important in the compartmentalization/transport of ER-synthesized lipids and in cellular differentiation. In this study, we used rat primary hippocampal cultures and found that Sig-1Rs form GalCer-enriched lipid rafts at ER lipid droplet-like structures in the entire myelin sheet of mature OLs. In rat OL progenitors (CG-4 cells), levels of lipid raft-residing Sig-1Rs and GalCer increase as cells differentiate. Sig-1Rs also increase in OLs and myelin of developing rat brains. Sig-1R, GalCer, and cholesterol are colocalized and are resistant to the Triton X-100 solubilization. Treating cells with a Sig-1R agonist or targeting Sig-1Rs at lipid rafts by overexpression of Sig-1Rs in CG-4 cells enhances differentiation, whereas reducing Sig-1Rs at lipid rafts by transfection of functionally dominant-negative Sig-1Rs attenuates differentiation. Furthermore, Sig-1R siRNA inhibits differentiation. Our findings indicate that, in the brain, Sig-1Rs targeting GalCer-containing lipid microdomains are important for OL differentiation and that Sig-1Rs may play an important role in the pathogenesis of certain demyelinating diseases.

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