The folate receptor is a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored membrane protein that mediates the delivery of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate to the cytoplasm of MA104 cells. Ordinarily the receptor is sequestered into numerous discrete clusters that are associated with an uncoated pit membrane specialization called a caveola. By using two different methodological approaches, we found that the maintenance of both receptor clusters and caveolae depends upon the presence of cholesterol in the membrane. These results suggest that cholesterol plays a critical role in maintaining the caveola membrane domain and modulates the interaction of GPI-anchored membrane proteins via their phospholipid anchors.
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