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. 2002;139:43-55.
doi: 10.1016/s0079-6123(02)39006-x.

Cholesterol and Steroid Hormones: Modulators of Oxytocin Receptor Function


Cholesterol and Steroid Hormones: Modulators of Oxytocin Receptor Function

Gerald Gimpl et al. Prog Brain Res. .


The function and physiological regulation of the oxytocin-receptor system is strongly steroid-dependent. This is, unexpectedly, only partially reflected by the promoter sequences in the oxytocin receptor and favors the idea that posttranscriptional mechanisms may also play a significant role for the physiological regulation of the oxytocin-receptor system. Our data indicate that cholesterol acts as an allosteric modulator of the oxytocin receptor and stabilizes both membrane-associated and solubilized OT receptors in a high-affinity state for agonists and antagonists. Moreover, high-affinity OT receptors are 2-fold enriched in cholesterol-rich plasma membrane domains in HEK293 fibroblasts stably expressing the human OT receptor. Biochemical data suggest a direct and cooperative molecular interaction of cholesterol molecules with OT receptors. To localize the cholesterol interacting domain of the oxytocin receptor the C-terminal part including the last two transmembrane domains have been exchanged by the corresponding sequences of the cholecystokinin type B receptor, which is functionally not dependent on cholesterol. Concerning its ligand-binding behavior this chimeric receptor protein showed the same dependence on cholesterol and its analogues as the wild type oxytocin receptor. From mutagenesis experiments and studies with receptor chimera between the OTR and cholecystokinin type B receptor, we conclude that a major part of the cholesterol interacting domain may be localized in the first part of the oxytocin receptor, possibly in a domain nearby the agonist binding site. Progesterone is considered to be essential to maintain the uterine quiescence. High concentrations of progesterone (> 10 microM) attenuate or block the signaling of several GPCRs, including the OT receptor via a fast, reversible and non-genomic pathway. Progesterone is known to inhibit both cholesterol biosynthesis and the intracellular trafficking of cholesterol. We therefore test the hypothesis that progesterone affects the signal transduction and subdomain localization of receptors via its influence on cholesterol trafficking. Since cholesterol-rich subdomains (rafts) are considered to be organization centers for cellular signal transduction, changes of the level or distribution of cholesterol may have profound effects on receptor-mediated signaling in general. Using fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) measurements with GFP-tagged oxytocin receptors the influence of steroids on the mobility and distribution of the oxytocin receptor in the plasma membrane was analyzed. Progesterone had no effect on the lateral mobility of the oxytocin receptor, but it led to marked inhibition of cellular motility such as vesicle trafficking and movements of filopodia. Non-genomic effects of progesterone and estradiol with respect to receptor signaling as well as the influence of cholesterol on signal transduction will be discussed in more detail.

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