Membrane protein sorting is mediated by interactions between proteins and lipids. One mechanism that contributes to sorting involves patches of lipids, termed lipid rafts, which are different from their surroundings in lipid and protein composition. Although the nerve growth factor (NGF) receptors, TrkA and p75(NTR) collaborate with each other at the plasma membrane to bind NGF, these two receptors are endocytosed separately and activate different cellular responses. We hypothesized that receptor localization in membrane rafts may play a role in endocytic sorting. TrkA and p75(NTR) both reside in detergent-resistant membranes (DRMs), yet they responded differently to a variety of conditions. The ganglioside, GM1, caused increased association of NGF, TrkA, and microtubules with DRMs, but a decrease in p75(NTR). When microtubules were induced to polymerize and attach to DRMs by in vitro reactions, TrkA, but not p75(NTR), was bound to microtubules in DRMs and in a detergent-resistant endosomal fraction. NGF enhanced the interaction between TrkA and microtubules in DRMs, yet tyrosine phosphorylated TrkA was entirely absent in DRMs under conditions where activated TrkA was detected in detergent-sensitive membranes and endosomes. These data indicate that TrkA and p75(NTR) partition into membrane rafts by different mechanisms, and that the fraction of TrkA that associates with DRMs is internalized but does not directly form signaling endosomes. Rather, by attracting microtubules to lipid rafts, TrkA may mediate other processes such as axon guidance.
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