Manipulation of Lipid Rafts in Neuronal Cells

Gunter P. Eckert*
Goethe-University, Dept. Pharmacology, Biocenter N260 R1.09, Max-von-Laue Str. 9, D-60438 Frankfurt, Germany.

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© 2010 Gunter P. Eckert

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Goethe-University, Dept. Pharmacology, Biocenter N260 R1.09, Max-von-Laue Str. 9, D-60438 Frankfurt, Germany; Tel: +49 69 798 29378; E-mail:; Web:


Lipid rafts are specialized plasma membrane micro-domains highly enriched in cholesterol, sphingolipids and glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchored proteins. Lipid rafts are thought to be located in the exofacial leaflet of plasma membranes. Functionally, lipid rafts are involved in intracellular trafficking of proteins and lipids, secretory and endocytotic pathways, signal transduction, inflammation and in cell-surface proteolysis. There has been substantial interest in lipid rafts in brain, both with respect to normal functioning and with certain neurodegenerative diseases. Based on the impact of lipid rafts on multitude biochemical pathways, modulation of lipid rafts is used to study related disease pathways and probably offers a target for pharmacological intervention. Lipid rafts can be targeted by modulation of its main components, namely cholesterol and sphingolipids. Other approaches include the modulation of membrane dynamics and it has been reported that protein-lipid interactions can vary the occurrence and composition of these membrane micro-domains. The present review summarizes the possibilities to modulate lipid rafts with focus on neuronal cells.

Keywords: Lipid raft, cholesterol, membrane fluidity, statin, cyclodextrine, docosahexaenoic acid.