Dissecting lipid raft facilitated cell signaling pathways in cancer

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 Apr;1785(2):182-206. doi: 10.1016/j.bbcan.2007.11.002. Epub 2007 Dec 5.


Cancer is one of the most devastating disorders in our lives. Higher rate of proliferation than death of cells is one of the essential factors for development of cancer. The dynamicity of cell membrane plays some vital roles in cell survival and cell death, including protection, endocytosis, signaling, and increases in mechanical stability during cell division, as well as decrease of shear forces during separation of two cells after division, and cell separation from tissues for cancer metastasis. Within the membrane, there are specialized domains, known as lipid rafts. A raft can coordinate various signaling pathways. Recent data on the proteomics of lipid rafts/caveolae have highlighted the enigmatic role of various signaling proteins in cancer development. Analysis of these data of raft proteome from various tumors, cancer tissues, and cell lines cultured without and with therapeutic agents, as well as from model rafts revealed that there may be two subsets of raft assemblage in cell membrane. One subset of raft is enriched with cholesterol-sphingomyeline-ganglioside-cav-1/Src/EGFR (hereafter, "chol-raft") that is involved in normal cell signaling, and when dysregulated promotes cell transformation and tumor progression; another subset of raft is enriched with ceramide-sphingomyeline-ganglioside-FAS/Ezrin (hereafter, "cer-raft") that generally promotes apoptosis. In view of this, and to focus insight into the cancer cell physiology caused by the lipid rafts mediated signals and their receptors, and the downstream transmitters, either proliferative (for example, EGF and EGFR) or death-inducing (for example, FASL and FAS), and the precise roles of some therapeutic drugs and endogenous acid sphingomylenase in this scenario in in situ transformation of "chol-raft" into "cer-raft" are summarized and discussed in this contribution.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Caveolae / metabolism*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Fas Ligand Protein / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • fas Receptor / metabolism


  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Membrane Lipids
  • fas Receptor