NAADP (nicotinic acid–adenine dinucleotide phosphate) is a newly described intracellular messenger molecule that mediates Ca2+ increases in a variety of cells. However, little is known of the mechanism whereby ligand binding regulates the target protein. We report in the present paper that NAADP receptors from sea urchin eggs undergo an unusual stabilization process that appears to be dependent upon the time during which receptors are exposed to their ligand. We demonstrate that receptors ‘tagged’ with NAADP for short periods were more readily dissociated following subsequent delipidation than those labelled for longer. Stabilization of NAADP receptors by their ligand was delayed relative to ligand association taking on the order of minutes to develop at picomolar concentrations. The stabilizing effects of NAADP did not require cytosolic factors or the continued presence of NAADP and persisted upon solubilization. NAADP receptors, however, failed to stabilize at reduced temperature. We conclude that NAADP receptors possess a simple molecular memory endowing them with the remarkable ability to detect the duration of their activation.

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