Several G protein-coupled receptors function within lipid rafts plasma membrane microdomains, which may be important in limiting signal transduction. Here we show that treatment of rat C6 glioma cells with the raft disruptor methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MCD) doubles the binding efficiency (i.e. the ratio between maximum binding and dissociation constant) of type-1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1R), which belong to the rhodopsin family of G protein-coupled receptors. In parallel, activation of CB1R by the endogenous agonist anandamide (AEA) leads to ∼3-fold higher [35S]GTPγS binding in MCD-treated cells than in controls, and CB1R-dependent signaling via adenylate cyclase, and p42/p44 MAPK is almost doubled by MCD. Unlike CB1R, the other AEA-binding receptor TRPV1, the AEA synthetase NAPE-PLD, and the AEA hydrolase FAAH are not modulated by MCD, whereas the activity of the AEA membrane transporter (AMT) is reduced to ∼50% of the controls. We also show that MCD reduces dose-dependently AEA-induced apoptosis in C6 cells but not in human CHP100 neuroblastoma cells, which mirror the endocannabinoid system of C6 cells but are devoid of CB1R. MCD reduces also cytochrome c release from mitochondria of C6 cells, and this effect is CB1R-dependent and partly mediated by activation of p42/p44 MAPK. Altogether, the present data suggest that lipid rafts control CB1R binding and signaling, and that CB1R activation underlies the protective effect of MCD against apoptosis.
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