Sigma-1 receptors bind cholesterol and remodel lipid rafts in breast cancer cell lines

Cancer Res. 2007 Dec 1;67(23):11166-75. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-1771.


Lipid rafts are membrane platforms that spatially organize molecules for specific signaling pathways that regulate various cellular functions. Cholesterol is critical for liquid-ordered raft formation by serving as a spacer between the hydrocarbon chains of sphingolipids, and alterations in the cholesterol contents of the plasma membrane causes disruption of rafts. The role that sigma receptors play in cancer is not clear, although it is frequently up-regulated in human cancer cells and tissues and sigma receptors inhibit proliferation in carcinoma and melanoma cell lines, induce apoptosis in colon and mammary carcinoma cell lines, and reduce cellular adhesion in mammary carcinoma cell lines. In this study, we provide molecular and functional evidence for the involvement of the enigmatic sigma 1 receptors in lipid raft modeling by sigma 1 receptor-mediated cholesterol alteration of lipid rafts in breast cancer cell lines. Cholesterol binds to cholesterol recognition domains in the COOH terminus of the sigma 1 receptor. This binding is blocked by sigma receptor drugs because the cholesterol-binding domains form part of the sigma receptor drug-binding site, mutations of which abolish cholesterol binding. Furthermore, we outline a hypothetical functional model to explain the myriad of biological processes, including cancer, in which these mysterious receptors are involved. The findings of this study provide a biological basis for the potential therapeutic applications of lipid raft cholesterol regulation in cancer therapy using sigma receptor drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Biological Transport
  • Biotin / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • Integrin beta1 / metabolism
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Microdomains*
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Phenazocine / analogs & derivatives
  • Phenazocine / pharmacology
  • Receptors, sigma / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, sigma / genetics
  • Receptors, sigma / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Integrin beta1
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Receptors, sigma
  • sigma-1 receptor
  • Biotin
  • SK&F 10047
  • Cholesterol
  • Phenazocine