Synaptic membrane rafts: traffic lights for local neurotrophin signaling?
Zonta B., Minichiello L.
Lipid rafts, cholesterol and lipid rich microdomains, are believed to play important roles as platforms for the partitioning of transmembrane and synaptic proteins involved in synaptic signaling, plasticity, and maintenance. There is increasing evidence of a physical interaction between post-synaptic densities and post-synaptic lipid rafts. Localization of proteins within lipid rafts is highly regulated, and therefore lipid rafts may function as traffic lights modulating and fine-tuning neuronal signaling. The tyrosine kinase neurotrophin receptors (Trk) and the low-affinity p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75(NTR)) are enriched in neuronal lipid rafts together with the intermediates of downstream signaling pathways, suggesting a possible role of rafts in neurotrophin signaling. Moreover, neurotrophins and their receptors are involved in the regulation of cholesterol metabolism. Cholesterol is an important component of lipid rafts and its depletion leads to gradual loss of synapses, underscoring the importance of lipid rafts for proper neuronal function. Here, we review and discuss the idea that translocation of neurotrophin receptors in synaptic rafts may account for the selectivity of their transduced signals.