The identification of the endogenous ligands of natural killer T cells reveals the presence of mammalian ?-linked glycosylceramides.
ABSTRACT: Glycosylceramides in mammalian species are thought to be present in the form of ?-anomers. This conclusion was reinforced by the identification of only one glucosylceramide and one galactosylceramide synthase, both ?-transferases, in mammalian genomes. Thus, the possibility that small amounts of ?-anomers could be produced by an alternative enzymatic pathway, by an unfaithful enzyme, or spontaneously in unusual cellular compartments has not been examined in detail. We approached the question by taking advantage of the exquisite specificity of T and B lymphocytes and combined it with the specificity of catabolic enzymes of the sphingolipid pathway. Here, we demonstrate that mammalian immune cells produce constitutively very small quantities of ?-glycosylceramides, which are the major endogenous ligands of natural killer T cells. Catabolic enzymes of the ceramide and glycolipid pathway tightly control the amount of these ?-glycosylceramides. The exploitation of this pathway to manipulate the immune response will create new therapeutic opportunities.
Project description:Filamentous and dimorphic fungi cause invasive mycoses associated with high mortality rates. Among the fungal determinants involved in the establishment of infection, glycosphingolipids (GSLs) have gained increased interest in the last few decades. GSLs are ubiquitous membrane components that have been isolated from both filamentous and dimorphic species and play a crucial role in polarized growth as well as hypha-to-yeast transition. In fungi, two major classes of GSLs are found: neutral and acidic GSLs. Neutral GSLs comprise glucosylceramide and galactosylceramide, which utilize ?4-?8-9-methyl-sphingadienine as a sphingoid base, linked to a C16-18 fatty acid chain, forming ceramide, and to a sugar residue, such as glucose or galactose. In contrast, acidic GSLs include glycosylinositol phosphorylceramides (GIPCs), composed of phytosphingosine attached to a long or very long fatty acid chain (C18-26) and to diverse and complex glycan groups via an inositol-phosphate linker. GIPCs are absent in mammalian cells, while fungal glucosylceramide and galactosylceramide are present but diverge structurally from their counterparts. Therefore, these compounds and their biosynthetic pathways represent potential targets for the development of selective therapeutic strategies. In this minireview, we discuss the enzymatic steps involved in the production of fungal GSLs, analyze their structure, and address the role of the currently characterized genes in the biology and pathogenesis of filamentous and dimorphic fungi.
Project description:Glycosylceramides that activate CD1d-restricted invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells have potential therapeutic applications for augmenting immune responses against cancer and infections. Previous studies using mouse models identified sphinganine variants of ?-galactosylceramide as promising iNKT cell activators that stimulate cytokine responses with a strongly proinflammatory bias. However, the activities of sphinganine variants in mice have generally not translated well to studies of human iNKT cell responses. Here, we show that strongly proinflammatory and anti-tumor iNKT cell responses were achieved in mice by a variant of ?-galactosylceramide that combines a sphinganine base with a hydrocinnamoyl ester on C6? of the sugar. Importantly, the activities observed with this variant were largely preserved for human iNKT cell responses. Structural and in silico modeling studies provided a mechanistic basis for these findings and suggested basic principles for capturing useful properties of sphinganine analogs of synthetic iNKT cell activators in the design of immunotherapeutic agents.
Project description:Although the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has only one sphingolipid class with a head group based on phosphoinositol, the yeast Pichia pastoris as well as many other fungi have a second class, glucosylceramide, which has a glucose head group. These two sphingolipid classes are in addition distinguished by a characteristic structure of their ceramide backbones. Here, we investigate the mechanisms controlling substrate entry into the glucosylceramide branch of the pathway. By a combination of enzymatic in vitro studies and lipid analysis of genetically engineered yeast strains, we show that the ceramide synthase Bar1p occupies a key branching point in sphingolipid biosynthesis in P. pastoris. By preferring dihydroxy sphingoid bases and C(16)/C(18) acyl-coenzyme A as substrates, Bar1p produces a structurally well defined group of ceramide species, which is the exclusive precursor for glucosylceramide biosynthesis. Correlating with the absence of glucosylceramide in this yeast, a gene encoding Bar1p is missing in S. cerevisiae. We could not successfully investigate the second ceramide synthase in P. pastoris that is orthologous to S. cerevisiae Lag1p/Lac1p. By analyzing the ceramide and glucosylceramide species in a collection of P. pastoris knock-out strains in which individual genes encoding enzymes involved in glucosylceramide biosynthesis were systematically deleted, we show that the ceramide species produced by Bar1p have to be modified by two additional enzymes, sphingolipid Δ4-desaturase and fatty acid α-hydroxylase, before the final addition of the glucose head group by the glucosylceramide synthase. Together, this set of four enzymes specifically defines the pathway leading to glucosylceramide biosynthesis.
Project description:Saposins A and C are sphingolipid activator proteins required for the lysosomal breakdown of galactosylceramide and glucosylceramide, respectively. The saposins interact with lipids, leading to an enhanced accessibility of the lipid headgroups to their cognate hydrolases. We have determined the crystal structures of human saposins A and C to 2.0 Angstroms and 2.4 Angstroms, respectively, and both reveal the compact, monomeric saposin fold. We confirmed that these two proteins were monomeric in solution at pH 7.0 by analytical centrifugation. However, at pH 4.8, in the presence of the detergent C(8)E(5), saposin A assembled into dimers, while saposin C formed trimers. Saposin B was dimeric under all conditions tested. The self-association of the saposins is likely to be relevant to how these small proteins interact with lipids, membranes, and hydrolase enzymes.
Project description:Members of the glycolipid transfer protein superfamily (GLTP) are found from animals and fungi to plants and red micro-alga. Eukaryotes that encode the glucosylceramide synthase responsible for the synthesis of glucosylceramide, the precursor for most glycosphingolipids, also produce GLTPs. Cells that does not synthesize glucosylceramide neither express GLTPs. Based on this genetic relationship there must be a strong correlation between the synthesis of glucosylceramide and GLTPs. To regulate the levels of glycolipids we have used inhibitors of intracellular trafficking, glycosphingolipid synthesis and degradation, and small interfering RNA to down-regulate the activity of glucosylceramide synthase activity. We found that GLTP expression, both at the mRNA and protein levels, is elevated in cells that accumulate glucosylceramide. Monensin and brefeldin A block intracellular vesicular transport mechanisms. Brefeldin A treatment leads to accumulation of newly synthesized glucosylceramide, galactosylceramide and lactosylceramide in a fused endoplasmic reticulum-Golgi complex. On the other hand, inhibiting glycosphingolipid degradation with conduritol-B-epoxide, that generates glucosylceramide accumulation in the lysosomes, did not affect the levels of GLTP. However, glycosphingolipid synthesis inhibitors like PDMP, NB-DNJ and myriocin, all decreased glucosylceramide and GLTP below normal levels. We also found that an 80% loss of glucosylceramide due to glucosylceramide synthase knockdown resulted in a significant reduction in the expression of GLTP. We show here that interfering with membrane trafficking events and simple neutral glycosphingolipid synthesis will affect the expression of GLTP. We postulate that a change in the glucosylceramide balance causes a response in the GLTP expression, and put forward that GLTP might play a role in lipid directing and sensing of glucosylceramide at the ER-Golgi interface.
Project description:It was previously shown that sphingomyelin and gangliosides can be biosynthesized starting from sphingosine or sphingosine-containing fragments which originated in the course of GM1 ganglioside catabolism. In the present paper we investigated which fragments were specifically re-used for sphingomyelin and ganglioside biosynthesis in rat liver. At 30 h after intravenous injection of GM1 labelled at the level of the fatty acid ([stearoyl-14C]GM1) or of the sphingosine ([Sph-3H]) moiety, it was observed that radioactive sphingomyelin was formed almost exclusively after the sphingosine-labelled-GM1 administration. This permitted the recognition of sphingosine as the metabolite re-used for sphingomyelin biosynthesis. Conversely, gangliosides more complex than GM1 were similarly radiolabelled after the two treatments, thus ruling out sphingosine re-utilization for ganglioside biosynthesis. For the identification of the lipid fragment re-used for ganglioside biosynthesis, we administered to rats neutral glycosphingolipids (galactosylceramide, glucosylceramide and lactosylceramide) each radiolabelled in the sphingosine moiety or in the terminal sugar residue. Thereafter we compared the formation of radiolabelled gangliosides in the liver with respect to the species administered and the label location. After galactosylceramide was injected, no radiolabelled gangliosides were formed. After the administration of differently labelled glucosylceramide, radiolabelled gangliosides were formed, regardless of the position of the label. After lactosylceramide administration, the ganglioside fraction became more radioactive when the long-chain-base-labelled precursors were used. These results suggest that glucosylceramide, derived from glycosphingolipid and ganglioside catabolism, is recycled for ganglioside biosynthesis.
Project description:Gangliosidoses are caused by monogenic defects of a specific hydrolase or an ancillary sphingolipid activator protein essential for a specific step in the catabolism of gangliosides. Such defects in lysosomal function cause a primary accumulation of multiple undegradable gangliosides and glycosphingolipids. In reality, however, predominantly small gangliosides also accumulate in many lysosomal diseases as secondary storage material without any known defect in their catabolic pathway. In recent reconstitution experiments, we identified primary storage materials like sphingomyelin, cholesterol, lysosphingolipids, and chondroitin sulfate as strong inhibitors of sphingolipid activator proteins (like GM2 activator protein, saposin A and B), essential for the catabolism of many gangliosides and glycosphingolipids, as well as inhibitors of specific catabolic steps in lysosomal ganglioside catabolism and cholesterol turnover. In particular, they trigger a secondary accumulation of ganglioside GM2, glucosylceramide and cholesterol in Niemann-Pick disease type A and B, and of GM2 and glucosylceramide in Niemann-Pick disease type C. Chondroitin sulfate effectively inhibits GM2 catabolism in mucopolysaccharidoses like Hurler, Hunter, Sanfilippo, and Sly syndrome and causes a secondary neuronal ganglioside GM2 accumulation, triggering neurodegeneration. Secondary ganglioside and lipid accumulation is furthermore known in many more lysosomal storage diseases, so far without known molecular basis.
Project description:Type I natural killer T cells (NKT cells) are characterized by an invariant variable region 14-joining region 18 (V(?)14-J(?)18) T cell antigen receptor (TCR) ?-chain and recognition of the glycolipid ?-galactosylceramide (?-GalCer) restricted to the antigen-presenting molecule CD1d. Here we describe a population of ?-GalCer-reactive NKT cells that expressed a canonical V(?)10-J(?)50 TCR ?-chain, which showed a preference for ?-glucosylceramide (?-GlcCer) and bacterial ?-glucuronic acid-containing glycolipid antigens. Structurally, despite very limited TCR? sequence identity, the V(?)10 TCR-CD1d-?-GlcCer complex had a docking mode similar to that of type I TCR-CD1d-?-GalCer complexes, although differences at the antigen-binding interface accounted for the altered antigen specificity. Our findings provide new insight into the structural basis and evolution of glycolipid antigen recognition and have notable implications for the scope and immunological role of glycolipid-specific T cell responses.
Project description:Gangliosides, sialic acid-containing glycosphingolipids, are membrane constituents of vertebrates and are known to have important roles in cellular differentiation, adhesion, and recognition. We report here the isolation of a bacterium capable of degrading gangliotetraose-series gangliosides and a new method for the production of glucosylceramide with this bacterium. GM1a ganglioside was found to be sequentially degraded by Paenibacillus sp. strain TS12, which was isolated from soil, as follows: GM1a --> asialo GM1 --> asialo GM2 --> lactosylceramide --> glucosylceramide. TS12 was found to produce a series of ganglioside-degrading enzymes, such as sialidases, beta-galactosidases, and beta-hexosaminidases. TS12 also produced beta-glucosidases, but glucosylceramide was somewhat resistant to the bacterial enzyme under the conditions used. Taking advantage of the specificity, we developed a new method for the production of glucosylceramide using TS12 as a biocatalyst. The method involves the conversion of crude bovine brain gangliosides to glucosylceramide by coculture with TS12 and purification of the product by chromatography with Wakogel C-300 HG.
Project description:Human glycolipid transfer protein (GLTP) fold represents a novel structural motif for lipid binding/transfer and reversible membrane translocation. GLTPs transfer glycosphingolipids (GSLs) that are key regulators of cell growth, division, surface adhesion, and neurodevelopment. Herein, we report structure-guided engineering of the lipid binding features of GLTP. New crystal structures of wild-type GLTP and two mutants (D48V and A47D?D48V), each containing bound N-nervonoyl-sulfatide, reveal the molecular basis for selective anchoring of sulfatide (3-O-sulfo-galactosylceramide) by D48V-GLTP. Directed point mutations of "portal entrance" residues, A47 and D48, reversibly regulate sphingosine access to the hydrophobic pocket via a mechanism that could involve homodimerization. "Door-opening" conformational changes by phenylalanines within the hydrophobic pocket are revealed during lipid encapsulation by new crystal structures of bona fide apo-GLTP and GLTP complexed with N-oleoyl-glucosylceramide. The development of "engineered GLTPs" with enhanced specificity for select GSLs provides a potential new therapeutic approach for targeting GSL-mediated pathologies.