Background: Lipid rafts enriched in glycosphingolipids (GSLs), cholesterol and signaling molecules play an essential role not only for signal transduction started by ligand binding, but for intracellular events such as organization of actin, intracellular traffic and cell polarity, but their functions in cleavage division of preimplantation embryos are not well known. Results: Here we show that monosialylGb5Cer (MSGb5Cer)-enriched raft domains are involved in development during the cleavage stage of mouse preimplantation embryos. MSGb5Cer preferentially localizes at the interfaces between blastomeres in mouse preimplantation embryos. Live-imaging analysis revealed that MSGb5Cer localizes in cleavage furrows during cytokinesis, and that by accumulating at the interfaces, it thickens them. Depletion of cholesterol from the cell membrane with methyl-beta-cyclodextrin (MbCD) reduced the expression of MSGb5Cer and stopped cleavage. Extensive accumulation of MSGb5Cer at the interfaces by cross-linking with anti-MSGb5Cer Mab (6E2) caused F-actin to aggregate at the interfaces and suppressed the localization of E-cadherin at the interfaces, which resulted in the cessation of cleavage. In addition, suppression of actin polymerization with cytochalasin D (CCD) decreased the accumulation of MSGb5Cer at the interfaces. In E-cadherin-targeted embryos, the MSGb5Cer-enriched raft membrane domains accumulated heterotopically. Conclusions: These results indicate that MSGb5Cer-enriched raft membrane domains participate in cytokinesis in a close cooperation with the cortical actin network and the distribution of E-cadherin.
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