Lipid raft: A floating island of death or survival

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Abstract

Lipid rafts are microdomains of the plasma membrane enriched in cholesterol and sphingolipids, and play an important role in the initiation of many pharmacological agent-induced signaling pathways and toxicological effects. The structure of lipid rafts is dynamic, resulting in an ever-changing content of both lipids and proteins. Cholesterol, as a major component of lipid rafts, is critical for the formation and configuration of lipid raft microdomains, which provide signaling platforms capable of activating both pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic signaling pathways. A change of cholesterol level can result in lipid raft disruption and activate or deactivate raft-associated proteins, such as death receptor proteins, protein kinases, and calcium channels. Several anti-cancer drugs are able to suppress growth and induce apoptosis of tumor cells through alteration of lipid raft contents via disrupting lipid raft integrity.

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