Membrane Rafts and Caveolae


The plasma membrane does more than serve as a barrier between the contents of the cell and the extracellular space. It is a highly organized structure which contains fatty acids, cholesterol and a variety of proteins and is functionally important in trafficking cellular signals. The concept of organized structures or domains within the plasma membrane has proven invaluable to understanding how the plasma membrane interacts with the surrounding environment. One class of these domains is lipid rafts which have been shown to organize and regulate signalling platforms. Caveolae are a subset of lipid rafts which contain specific proteins and lipids that aid in the regulation of signalling processes differently from other domains. Purification techniques have made it possible to study the biochemistry of lipid rafts and caveolae and to gain a better understanding of their roles in signal transduction.

Keywords: lipid rafts; caveolae; signalling; cholesterol; membranes


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Further Reading

Everson WV and Smart EJ (2005) Caveolae and the regulation of cellular cholesterol homeostasis. In: Lisanti MP and Frank PG (eds) Advances in Molecular and Cell Biology series: Caveolae and Lipid Rafts: Roles in Signal Transduction and the Pathogenesis of Human Disease. vol. 36, pp. 37–55. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic Press.

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Smart EJ, Graf GA, McNiven MA et al. (1999) Caveolins, liquid‐ordered domains, and signal transduction. Molecular and cellular biology 19: 7289–7304.

Thomas CM and Smart EJ (2008) Caveolae structure and function. Journal of cellular and molecular medicine 12: 796–809.

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Thomas, Candice M, and Smart, Eric J(Sep 2008) Membrane Rafts and Caveolae. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021022]