Death Receptor 5 Networks Require Membrane Cholesterol for Proper Structure and Function

Andrew K. Lewis, Christopher C. Valley, Stephen L. Peery, Benjamin Brummel, Anthony R. Braun, Christine B. Karim, Jonathan N. Sachs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Death receptor 5 (DR5) is an apoptosis-inducing member of the tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily, whose activity has been linked to membrane cholesterol content. Upon ligand binding, DR5 forms large clusters within the plasma membrane that have often been assumed to be manifestations of receptor co-localization in cholesterol-rich membrane domains. However, we have recently shown that DR5 clusters are more than just randomly aggregated receptors. Instead, these are highly structured networks held together by receptor dimers. These dimers are stabilized by specific transmembrane helix–helix interactions, including a disulfide bond in the long isoform of the receptor. The complex relationships among DR5 network formation, transmembrane helix dimerization, membrane cholesterol, and receptor activity has not been established. It is unknown whether the membrane itself plays an active role in driving DR5 transmembrane helix interactions or in the formation of the networks. We show that cholesterol depletion in cells does not inhibit the formation of DR5 networks. However, the networks that form in cholesterol-depleted cells fail to induce caspase cleavage. These results suggest a potential structural difference between active and inactive networks. As evidence, we show that cholesterol is necessary for the covalent dimerization of DR5 transmembrane domains. Molecular simulations and experiments in synthetic vesicles on the DR5 transmembrane dimer suggest that dimerization is facilitated by increased helicity in a thicker bilayer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4843-4855
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 4 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIH R01 GM107175 . We would like to thank the University of Minnesota–University Imaging Center for confocal imaging resources. This work was carried out in part using the computing resources at the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016


  • cholesterol-rich membrane domains
  • disulfide bond
  • ligand/receptor clustering
  • replica exchange molecular dynamics
  • transmembrane domain


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