Although originally proposed as a subtype of opioid receptors, the sigma receptor is now confirmed to be a non-opioid receptor that binds diverse classes of psychotropic drugs. Sigma receptors are subdivided into two subtypes, sigma-1 and sigma-2. The sigma-1 receptor is a 25-kDa protein possessing one putative transmembrane domain and an endoplasmic reticulum retention signal. Sigma-1 receptors are highly expressed in deeper laminae of the cortex, olfactory bulb, nuclei of mesencephalon, hypothalamus, and Purkinje cells in the brain. Sigma-1 receptors are predominantly localized at the endoplasmic reticulum of both neurons and oligodendrocytes. From behavioral studies, sigma-1 receptors were shown to be involved in higher-ordered brain functions including memory and drug dependence. The actions mediated by sigma-1 receptors at the cellular level can be considered either as acute or chronic. The acute actions include the modulation of ion channels (i.e., K+ channel, NMDA receptors, IP3 receptors) and the sigma-1 receptor translocation. Chronic actions of sigma-1 receptors are basically considered to be the result of an up- or down regulation of the sigma-1 receptor itself. For example, the upregulation of sigma-1 receptors per se, even without exogenous ligands, promotes cellular differentiation and reconstitution of lipid microdomains (lipid rafts) in cultured cells. These findings together suggest that sigma-1 receptors might possess a constitutive biological activity, and that sigma-1 receptor ligands might merely work as modulators of the innate activity of this protein. Recent in vitro and in vivo studies strongly point to the possibility that sigma-1 receptors participate in membrane remodeling and cellular differentiation in the nervous system.
Keywords: sigma receptor, potassium channel, ip receptor, lipid rafts, differentiation, oligodendrocyte, drug dependence
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