Lipid rafts are specialized cholesterol-enriched membrane domains that participate in cellular signaling processes. Caveolae are related domains that become invaginated due to the presence of the structural protein, caveolin-1. In this paper, we use electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI/MS) to quantitatively compare the phospholipids present in plasma membranes and nondetergent lipid rafts from caveolin-1-expressing and nonexpressing cells. Lipid rafts are enriched in cholesterol and sphingomyelin as compared to the plasma membrane fraction. Expression of caveolin-1 increases the amount of cholesterol recovered in the lipid raft fraction but does not affect the relative proportions of the various phospholipid classes. Surprisingly, ESI/MS demonstrated that lipid rafts are enriched in plasmenylethanolamines, particularly those containing arachidonic acid. While the total content of anionic phospholipids was similar in plasma membranes and nondetergent lipid rafts, the latter were highly enriched in phosphatidylserine but relatively depleted in phosphatidylinositol. Detergent-resistant membranes made from the same cells showed a higher cholesterol content than nondetergent lipid rafts but were depleted in anionic phospholipids. In addition, these detergent-resistant membranes were not enriched in arachidonic acid-containing ethanolamine plasmalogens. These data provide insight into the structure of lipid rafts and identify potential new roles for these domains in signal transduction.
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