Agonist-dependent Signaling by Group I Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors Is Regulated by Association With Lipid Domains

J Biol Chem. 2013 Nov 1;288(44):32004-19. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.475863. Epub 2013 Sep 17.


Group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs), mGluR1 and mGluR5, play critical functions in forms of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity and synapse remodeling in physiological and pathological states. Importantly, in animal models of fragile X syndrome, group I mGluR activity is abnormally enhanced, a dysfunction that may partly underlie cognitive deficits in the condition. Lipid rafts are cholesterol- and sphingolipid-enriched membrane domains that are thought to form transient signaling platforms for ligand-activated receptors. Many G protein-coupled receptors, including group I mGluRs, are present in lipid rafts, but the mechanisms underlying recruitment to these membrane domains remain incompletely understood. Here, we show that mGluR1 recruitment to lipid rafts is enhanced by agonist binding and is supported at least in part by an intact cholesterol recognition/interaction amino acid consensus (CRAC) motif in the receptor. Substitutions of critical residues in the motif reduce mGluR1 association with lipid rafts and agonist-induced, mGluR1-dependent activation of extracellular-signal-activated kinase1/2 MAP kinase (ERK-MAPK). We find that alteration of membrane cholesterol content or perturbation of lipid rafts regulates agonist-dependent activation of ERK-MAPK by group I mGluRs, suggesting a potential function for cholesterol as a positive allosteric modulator of receptor function(s). Together, these findings suggest that drugs that alter membrane cholesterol levels or directed to the receptor-cholesterol interface could be employed to modulate abnormal group I mGluR activity in neuropsychiatric conditions, including fragile X syndrome.

Keywords: CRAC Motif; Cholesterol; ERK; Glutamate Receptors Metabotropic; Lipid Raft; Protein Motifs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation / genetics
  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Cholesterol / genetics
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Fragile X Syndrome / genetics
  • Fragile X Syndrome / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System*
  • Membrane Microdomains / genetics
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / genetics
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3 / genetics
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3 / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / agonists*
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / genetics
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • metabotropic glutamate receptor type 1
  • Cholesterol
  • MAPK1 protein, human
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3