Lipids, lipid rafts and caveolae: their importance for GPCR signaling and their centrality to the endocannabinoid system

Life Sci. 2005 Aug 19;77(14):1625-39. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2005.05.040.


Scientific views of cell membrane organization are presently changing. Rather than serving only as the medium through which membrane proteins diffuse, lipid bilayers have now been shown to form compartmentalized domains with different biophysical properties (rafts/caveolae). For membrane proteins such as the G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), a raft domain provides a platform for the assembly of signaling complexes and prevents cross-talk between pathways. Lipid composition also has a strong influence on the conformational activity of GPCRs. For certain GPCRs, such as the cannabinoid receptors, the lipid bilayer has additional significance. Endocannabinoids such as anandamide (AEA) are created in a lipid bilayer from lipid and act at the membrane embedded CB1 receptor. Endocannabinoids exiting the CB1 receptor are transported either by a carrier-mediated or a simple diffusion process to the membrane of the postsynaptic cell. Following cellular uptake, perhaps via caveolae/lipid raft-related endocytosis, AEA is rapidly metabolized by a membrane-associated enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) located in the endoplasmic reticulum. The entry point for AEA into FAAH appears to be from the lipid bilayer. This review explores the importance of lipid composition and lipid rafts to GPCR signaling and then focuses on the intimate relationship that exists between the lipid environment and the endocannabinoid system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / chemistry
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism*
  • Caveolae / metabolism*
  • Endocannabinoids*
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase