Membrane microdomains enriched in cholesterol and sphingolipids and containing specific membrane proteins are designated as lipid rafts. Lipid rafts have been implicated in cell signaling pathways in various cell types. Heterotrimeric guanine nucleotide-binding protein (Gsα) has been shown to be a raft component of erythrocytes and has been implicated in cell signaling. Rafts are isolated as detergent-resistant microdomains (DRMs) for biochemical analysis. Cholesterol depletion is widely used to disrupt raft structures to study their function in biological membranes. In the present study, we developed an alternate strategy for disrupting raft structures without altering membrane cholesterol content. Lidocaine hydrochloride, an amphipathic local anesthetic, is shown to reversibly disrupt rafts in erythrocyte membranes and alter the Gsα dependent signal transduction pathway. These findings provide evidence for the presence of rafts while maintaining normal cholesterol content in erythrocyte membranes and confirm a role for raft-associated Gsα in signal transduction in erythrocytes.
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