The ability of polarized cells to initiate and sustain directional responses to extracellular signals is critically dependent on direct communication between spatially organized signalling modules in the membrane and the underlying cytoskeleton. Pioneering work in T cells has shown that the assembly of signalling modules critically depends on the functional compartmentalization of membrane lipids into ordered microdomains or lipid rafts. The significance of rafts in T cell activation lies not only in their ability to recruit the signalling partners that eventually assemble into a mature immunological synapse but also in their ability to regulate actin dynamics and recruit cytoskeletal associated proteins, thereby achieving the structural polarization underlying stability of the synapse—a critical prerequisite for activation to be sustained. Lipid rafts vary quite considerably in size and visualizing the smallest of them in vivo has been challenging. Nonetheless it is now been shown quite convincingly that a surprisingly large proportion—in the order of 50%—of external membrane lipids (chiefly cholesterol and glycosphingolipids) can be dynamically localized in these liquid ordered rafts. Complementary inner leaflet rafts are less well characterized, but contain phosphoinositides as an important functional component that is crucial for regulating the behaviour of the actin cytoskeleton. This paper provides an overview of the interdependency between signalling and cytoskeletal polarization, and in particular considers how regulation of the cytoskeleton plays a crucial role in the consolidation of rafts and their stabilization into the immunological synapse.
One contribution of 16 to a Theme Issue ‘Immunoregulation: harnessing T cell biology for therapeutic benefit’.
- © 2005 The Royal Society