Ordered Just So: Lipid Rafts and Lymphocyte Function

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Science's STKE  05 Mar 2002:
Vol. 2002, Issue 122, pp. re2
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2002.122.re2

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Immunologists have long been occupied with the description of cellular activation signaling events that originate with the stimulation of multichain immunoreceptors at the cell surface. These signals are transmitted by a protein-partner-signaling cascade through the cytoplasm to the nucleus, where they culminate in changes in gene expression, metabolic state, and entry into cell cycle. For T cells and B cells, these signaling cascades start with the ligation of the T cell receptor (TCR) and B cell receptor (BCR), respectively, and result in the recruitment and activation of related families of signaling molecules at the cell surface. Until recently, this gathering of signaling proteins was thought to occur within the featureless plasma membrane, a cellular organ that was envisioned as a boundary between the inner and outer components of the cell, but which contributed little to the signaling process. However, the past few years have seen the gradual realization that activation of signaling in lymphocytes takes place in and around specialized membrane subdomains called lipid rafts (also known as DIGs and GEMs). Here, we provide a brief overview of the analogous structures and compositions of lipid raft-associated signaling complexes in T cells and B cells, and the ways in which lymphocytes--and their pathogen adversaries--use lipid rafts to their benefit.

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