The ternary system palmitoylsphingomyelin (PSM)/palmitoyloleoylphosphatidylcholine (POPC)/cholesterol is used to model lipid rafts. The phase behavior of the three binary systems PSM/POPC, PSM/cholesterol, and POPC/cholesterol is first experimentally determined. Phase coexistence boundaries are then determined for ternary mixtures at room temperature (23 degrees C) and the ternary phase diagram at that temperature is obtained. From the diagram at 23 degrees C and the binary phase diagrams, a reasonable expectation is drawn for the ternary phase diagram at 37 degrees C. Several photophysical methodologies are employed that do not involve detergent extraction, in addition to literature data (e.g., differential scanning calorimetry) and thermodynamic rules. For the ternary phase diagrams, some tie-lines are calculated, including the one that contains the PSM/POPC/ cholesterol 1:1:1 mixture, which is often used in model raft studies. The diagrams here described are used to rationalize literature results, some of them apparently discrepant, and to discuss lipid rafts within the framework of liquid-ordered/liquid-disordered phase coexistence.
The effect of physiologically relevant ceramide concentrations (< or = 4 mol %) in raft model membranes with a lipid composition resembling that of cell membranes, i.e., composed of different molar ratios of an unsaturated glycerophospholipid, sphingomyelin, and cholesterol (Chol) along a liquid-disordered-liquid-ordered tie line was explored. The application of a fluorescence multiprobe and multiparameter approach, together with multiple fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) pairs, in the well-characterized palmitoyl-oleoyl-phosphocholine (POPC)/palmitoyl-sphingomyelin (PSM)/Chol ternary mixture, revealed that low palmitoyl-ceramide (PCer) concentrations strongly changed both the biophysical properties and lipid lateral organization of the ternary mixtures in the low-to-intermediate Chol/PSM-, small raft size range (<25 mol % Chol). For these mixtures, PCer recruited up to three PSM molecules for the formation of very small ( approximately 4 nm) and highly ordered gel domains, which became surrounded by rafts (liquid-ordered phase) when Chol/PSM content increased. However, the size of these rafts did not change, showing that PCer did not induce the formation of large platforms or the coalescence of small rafts. In the high Chol/PSM-, large raft domains range (>33 mol % Chol), Chol completely abolished the effect of PCer by competing for PSM association. Lipid rafts govern the biophysical properties and lateral organization in these last mixtures.
To understand the formation and properties of ceramide-enriched domains in cell membranes, the biophysical properties of the binary system palmitoyloleoylphosphatidylcholine (POPC)/palmitoylceramide were thoroughly characterized. Diverse fluorescent probes and parameters were necessary to unravel the complexity of this apparently simple system. For the first time, a complete phase diagram is reported, characterizing the lamellar phases of these mixtures, and providing a quantitative framework integrating biophysical and biological studies. The diagram suggests that in resting cells no ceramide domains exist, but upon apoptotic stimuli, platforms may form. Moreover, our data show that 2 mol% of Cer strongly affects the POPC fluid matrix, suggesting that a small increase in Cer levels can significantly affect cell membrane properties. In this work, we also show that Cer domains, formed in conditions similar to physiological, are extremely ordered and rigid. The domains composition is estimated from the phase diagram and their large size was concluded from fluorescence resonance energy transfer. Dynamic light scattering and electron microscopy were used to characterize the system morphology, which is highly dependent on ceramide content and includes vesiculation and tubular structure formation.
Ceramide is an important lipid signaling molecule that plays critical roles in regulating cell behavior. Ceramide synthesis is surprisingly complex and is orchestrated by six mammalian ceramide synthases, each of which produces ceramides with restricted acyl chain lengths. We have generated a CerS2 null mouse and characterized the changes in the long chain base and sphingolipid composition of livers from these mice. Ceramide and downstream sphingolipids were devoid of very long (C22-C24) acyl chains, consistent with the substrate specificity of CerS2 toward acyl-CoAs. Unexpectedly, C16-ceramide levels were elevated, and as a result, total ceramide levels were unaltered; however, C16-ceramide synthesis in vitro was not increased. Levels of sphinganine were also significantly elevated, by up to 50-fold, reminiscent of the effect of the ceramide synthase inhibitor, fumonisin B1. With the exceptions of glucosylceramide synthase and neutral sphingomyelinase 2, none of the other enzymes tested in either the sphingolipid biosynthetic or degradative pathways were significantly changed. Total glycerophospholipid and cholesterol levels were unaltered, although there was a marked elevation in C18:1 and C18:2 fatty acids in phosphatidylethanolamine, concomitant with a reduction in C18:0 and C20:4 fatty acids. Finally, differences were observed in the biophysical properties of lipid extracts isolated from liver microsomes, with membranes from CerS2 null mice displaying higher membrane fluidity and showing morphological changes. Together, these results demonstrate novel modes of cross-talk and regulation between the various branches of lipid metabolic pathways upon inhibition of very long acyl chain ceramide synthesis.Biological membranes contain thousands of different lipid species that can be broadly classified according to their backbone structure (1). Of these, sphingolipids (SL) 2 have become particularly prominent due to the discovery of their unexpected structural complexity and their intricate modes of cellular trafficking and metabolism (2-4). Ceramides are perhaps the most well studied class of SLs, because of their essential roles in differentiation and in apoptosis (5-7). Ceramides can differ in both their long chain sphingoid base (8) and fatty acid composition (9). Over the past few years, a complex mode of regulation of ceramide synthesis has been described, with each of the six mammalian ceramide synthase (CerS) (formerly known as Lass (longevity assurance)) genes generating ceramides with specific acyl chain lengths (10). Thus, CerS1 uses mostly C18-CoA (11); CerS4 uses C18-and C20-CoAs (12); CerS5 and CerS6 use mostly C16-CoA (12, 13); and CerS3 uses very long chain acyl-CoAs (C26 and higher) (14). CerS2 can utilize a wider range of fatty acyl-CoAs but uses mainly C22 to C24. In addition, CerS2 displays complex modes of regulation and has genomic features characteristic of a "housekeeping" gene, although no other CerS genes display these characteristics (15).We have now generated a CerS2 null mouse and have ...
Optical spectroscopies have been intensively used to determine partition coefficients by a plethora of methodologies. The present review is intended to give detailed and useful information for the determination of partition coefficients and addresses several relevant aspects, namely: (i) definition and calculation of the partition coefficient between aqueous and lipidic phases; (ii) partition coefficients vs. "binding" formalisms; (iii) advantages of spectroscopic methodologies over separation techniques; (iv) formalisms for various experimental approaches based on UV-Vis absorption or fluorescence parameters (fluorescence intensity, lifetime, anisotropy and quenching); (v) experimental hints, artifacts and model limitations; and (vi) a brief survey of nonoptical techniques.
To better understand how ceramide modulates the biophysical properties of the membrane, the interactions between palmitoyl-ceramide (PCer) and palmitoyl-sphingomyelin (PSM) were studied in the presence of the fluid phospholipid palmitoyl-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine (POPC) in membrane model systems. The use of two fluorescent membrane probes distinctly sensitive to lipid phases allowed a thorough biophysical characterization of the ternary system. In these mixtures, PCer recruits POPC and PSM in the fluid phase to form extremely ordered and compact gel domains. Gel domain formation by low PCer mol fraction (up to 12 mol %) is enhanced by physiological PSM levels (approximately 20-30 mol % total lipid). For higher PSM content, a three-phase situation, consisting of fluid (POPC-rich)/gel (PSM-rich)/gel (PCer-rich) coexistence, is clearly shown. To determine the fraction of each phase a quantitative method was developed. This allowed establishing the complete ternary phase diagram, which helps to predict PCer-rich gel domain formation and explains its enhancement through PSM/PCer interactions.
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