Lipid rafts, specialized membrane microdomains in the plasma membrane rich in cholesterol and sphingolipids, are hot spots for a number of important cellular processes. The novel nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) mutation αC418W, the first lipid-exposed mutation identified in a patient that causes slow channel congenital myasthenia syndrome was shown to be cholesterol-sensitive and to accumulate in microdomains rich in the membrane raft marker protein caveolin-1. The objective of this study is to gain insight into the mechanism by which lateral segregation into specialized raft membrane microdomains regulates the activable pool of nAChRs. We performed fluorescent recovery after photobleaching (FRAP), quantitative RT-PCR, and whole cell patch clamp recordings of GFP-encoding Mus musculus nAChRs transfected into HEK 293 cells to assess the role of cholesterol and caveolin-1 (CAV-1) in the diffusion, expression, and functionality of the nAChR (WT and αC418W). Our findings support the hypothesis that a cholesterol-sensitive nAChR might reside in specialized membrane microdomains that upon cholesterol depletion become disrupted and release the cholesterol-sensitive nAChRs to the pool of activable receptors. In addition, our results in HEK 293 cells show an interdependence between CAV-1 and αC418W that could confer end plates rich in αC418W nAChRs to a susceptibility to changes in cholesterol levels that could cause adverse drug reactions to cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins. The current work suggests that the interplay between cholesterol and CAV-1 provides the molecular basis for modulating the function and dynamics of the cholesterol-sensitive αC418W nAChR.
Keywords: electrophysiology; fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP); lipid raft; lipid-protein interaction; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR); phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PI(4,5)P2); slow channel congenital myasthenia syndrome; whole cell patch clamp.
© 2015 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.