Lipid raft-mediated regulation of G-protein coupled receptor signaling by ligands which influence receptor dimerization: a computational study

PLoS One. 2009 Aug 11;4(8):e6604. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006604.


G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest family of cell surface receptors; they activate heterotrimeric G-proteins in response to ligand stimulation. Although many GPCRs have been shown to form homo- and/or heterodimers on the cell membrane, the purpose of this dimerization is not known. Recent research has shown that receptor dimerization may have a role in organization of receptors on the cell surface. In addition, microdomains on the cell membrane termed lipid rafts have been shown to play a role in GPCR localization. Using a combination of stochastic (Monte Carlo) and deterministic modeling, we propose a novel mechanism for lipid raft partitioning of GPCRs based on reversible dimerization of receptors and then demonstrate that such localization can affect GPCR signaling. Modeling results are consistent with a variety of experimental data indicating that lipid rafts have a role in amplification or attenuation of G-protein signaling. Thus our work suggests a new mechanism by which dimerization-inducing or inhibiting characteristics of ligands can influence GPCR signaling by controlling receptor organization on the cell membrane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dimerization
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Microdomains / physiology*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / chemistry
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled