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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2006 Oct;291(4):R861-9. Epub 2006 Jun 1.

Effects of cholesterol manipulation on the signaling of the human oxytocin receptor.

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  • 1Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche Institute of Neuroscience, Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, Milan, Italy.


We have recently shown that oxytocin inhibits cell growth when the vast majority of oxytocin receptors (OTRs) are excluded from detergent-resistant membranes (DRMs; the biochemical counterpart of lipid rafts), but has a strong mitogenic effect when the receptors are targeted to these plasma membrane domains upon fusion with caveolin-2, a resident raft protein. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the manipulation of total cell cholesterol can influence OTR localization and signaling. Our data indicate that cholesterol depletion in HEK-293 cells does not affect the signaling events mediated by the OTRs located outside DRMs. When treated with 2 mM methyl-beta-cyclodextrin (MbetaCD), the receptors remained outside and continued to inhibit cell growth. On the contrary, the MbetaCD treatment of cells expressing receptors fused to caveolin-2 led to their redistribution outside DRMs, and converted the receptor-mediated proliferative effect into cell growth inhibition. These data indicate that 1) once released from DRMs, the receptors fused to caveolin-2 signal exactly as wild-type OTRs and 2) their DRM location is responsible for the specific OTR signaling leading to cell proliferation. Finally, we evaluated whether cholesterol loading could force the OTRs into lipid rafts and change their signaling, but, after cell treatment with an MbetaCD/cholesterol complex, receptor stimulation continued to lead to cell growth inhibition, thus indicating that increasing cell cholesterol levels is not sufficient per se to affect OTR signaling.

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