Permeability Barrier and Microstructure of Skin Lipid Membrane Models of Impaired Glucosylceramide Processing.
ABSTRACT: Ceramide (Cer) release from glucosylceramides (GlcCer) is critical for the formation of the skin permeability barrier. Changes in ?-glucocerebrosidase (GlcCer'ase) activity lead to diminished Cer, GlcCer accumulation and structural defects in SC lipid lamellae; however, the molecular basis for this impairment is not clear. We investigated impaired GlcCer-to-Cer processing in human Cer membranes to determine the physicochemical properties responsible for the barrier defects. Minor impairment (5-25%) of the Cer generation from GlcCer decreased the permeability of the model membrane to four markers and altered the membrane microstructure (studied by X-ray powder diffraction and infrared spectroscopy), in agreement with the effects of topical GlcCer in human skin. At these concentrations, the accumulation of GlcCer was a stronger contributor to this disturbance than the lack of human Cer. However, replacement of 50-100% human Cer by GlcCer led to the formation of a new lamellar phase and the maintenance of a rather good barrier to the four studied permeability markers. These findings suggest that the major cause of the impaired water permeability barrier in complete GlcCer'ase deficiency is not the accumulation of free GlcCer but other factors, possibly the retention of GlcCer bound in the corneocyte lipid envelope.
Project description:Sphingolipids, including sphingomyelin (SM) and glucosylceramide (GlcCer), are generated by the addition of a polar head group to ceramide (Cer). Sphingomyelin synthase 1 (SMS1) and glucosylceramide synthase (GCS) are key enzymes that catalyze the conversion of Cer to SM and GlcCer, respectively. GlcCer synthesis has been postulated to occur mainly in cis-Golgi, and SM synthesis is thought to occur in medial/trans-Golgi; however, SMS1 and GCS are known to partially co-localize in cisternae, especially in medial/trans-Golgi. Here, we report that SMS1 and GCS can form a heteromeric complex, in which the N terminus of SMS1 and the C terminus of GCS are in close proximity. Deletion of the N-terminal sterile α-motif of SMS1 reduced the stability of the SMS1-GCS complex, resulting in a significant reduction in SM synthesis in vivo In contrast, chemical-induced heterodimerization augmented SMS1 activity, depending on an increase in the amount and stability of the complex. Fusion of the SMS1 N terminus to the GCS C terminus via linkers of different lengths increased SM synthesis and decreased GlcCer synthesis in vivo These results suggest that formation of the SMS1-GCS heteromeric complex increases SM synthesis and decreases GlcCer synthesis. Importantly, this regulation of relative Cer levels by the SMS1-GCS complex was confirmed by CRISPR/Cas9-mediated knockout of SMS1 or GCS combined with pharmacological inhibition of Cer transport protein in HEK293T cells. Our findings suggest that complex formation between SMS1 and GCS is part of a critical mechanism controlling the metabolic fate of Cer in the Golgi.
Project description:ABCA12 (ATP binding cassette transporter, family 12) is a cellular membrane transporter that facilitates the delivery of glucosylceramides to epidermal lamellar bodies in keratinocytes, a process that is critical for permeability barrier formation. Following secretion of lamellar bodies into the stratum corneum, glucosylceramides are metabolized to ceramides, which comprise approximately 50% of the lipid in stratum corneum. Gene mutations of ABCA12 underlie harlequin ichthyosis, a devastating skin disorder characterized by abnormal lamellar bodies and a severe barrier abnormality. Recently we reported that peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) and liver X receptor activators increase ABCA12 expression in human keratinocytes. Here we demonstrate that ceramide (C(2)-Cer and C(6)-Cer), but not C(8)-glucosylceramides, sphingosine, or ceramide 1-phosphate, increases ABCA12 mRNA expression in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Inhibitors of glucosylceramide synthase, sphingomyelin synthase, and ceramidase and small interfering RNA knockdown of human alkaline ceramidase, which all increase endogenous ceramide levels, also increased ABCA12 mRNA levels. Moreover, simultaneous treatment with C(6)-Cer and each of these same inhibitors additively increased ABCA12 expression, indicating that ceramide is an important inducer of ABCA12 expression and that the conversion of ceramide to other sphingolipids or metabolites is not required. Finally, both exogenous and endogenous ceramides preferentially stimulate PPARdelta expression (but not other PPARs or liver X receptors), whereas PPARdelta knockdown by siRNA transfection specifically diminished the ceramide-induced increase in ABCA12 mRNA levels, indicating that PPARdelta is a mediator of the ceramide effect. Together, these results show that ceramide, an important lipid component of epidermis, up-regulates ABCA12 expression via the PPARdelta-mediated signaling pathway, providing a substrate-driven, feed-forward mechanism for regulating this key lipid transporter.
Project description:Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are a specialized T-cell subset that recognizes lipids as antigens, contributing to immune responses in diverse disease processes. Experimental data suggests that iNKT cells can recognize both microbial and endogenous lipid antigens. Several candidate endogenous lipid antigens have been proposed, although the contextual role of specific antigens during immune responses remains largely unknown. We have previously reported that mammalian glucosylceramides (GlcCers) activate iNKT cells. GlcCers are found in most mammalian tissues, and exist in variable molecular forms that differ mainly in N-acyl fatty acid chain use. In this report, we purified, characterized, and tested the GlcCer fractions from multiple animal species. Although activity was broadly identified in these GlcCer fractions from mammalian sources, we also found activity properties that could not be reconciled by differences in fatty acid chain use. Enzymatic digestion of ?-GlcCer and a chromatographic separation method demonstrated that the activity in the GlcCer fraction was limited to a rare component of this fraction, and was not contained within the bulk of ?-GlcCer molecular species. Our data suggest that a minor lipid species that copurifies with ?-GlcCer in mammals functions as a lipid self antigen for iNKT cells.
Project description:Ceramide is a common precursor of sphingomyelin (SM) and glycosphingolipids (GSLs) in mammalian cells. Ceramide synthase 2 (CERS2), one of the six ceramide synthase isoforms, is responsible for the synthesis of very long chain fatty acid (C20-26 fatty acids) (VLC)-containing ceramides (VLC-Cer). It is known that the proportion of VLC species in GSLs is higher than that in SM. To address the mechanism of the VLC-preference of GSLs, we used genome editing to establish three HeLa cell mutants that expressed different amounts of CERS2 and compared the acyl chain lengths of SM and GSLs by metabolic labeling experiments. VLC-sphingolipid expression was increased along with that of CERS2, and the proportion of VLC species in glucosylceramide (GlcCer) was higher than that in SM for all expression levels of CERS2. This higher proportion was still maintained even when the proportion of C16-Cer to the total ceramides was increased by disrupting the ceramide transport protein (CERT)-dependent C16-Cer delivery pathway for SM synthesis. On the other hand, merging the Golgi apparatus and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) by Brefeldin A decreased the proportion of VLC species in GlcCer probably due to higher accessibility of UDP-glucose ceramide glucosyltransferase (UGCG) to C16-rich ceramides. These results suggest the existence of a yet-to-be-identified mechanism rendering VLC-Cer more accessible than C16-Cer to UGCG, which is independent of CERT.
Project description:Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal adult-onset disease characterized by upper and lower motor neuron degeneration, muscle wasting and paralysis. Growing evidence suggests a link between changes in lipid metabolism and ALS. Here, we used UPLC/TOF-MS to survey the lipidome in SOD1(G86R) mice, a model of ALS. Significant changes in lipid expression were evident in spinal cord and skeletal muscle before overt neuropathology. In silico analysis also revealed appreciable changes in sphingolipids including ceramides and glucosylceramides (GlcCer). HPLC analysis showed increased amounts of GlcCer and downstream glycosphingolipids (GSLs) in SOD1(G86R) muscle compared with wild-type littermates. Glucosylceramide synthase (GCS), the enzyme responsible for GlcCer biosynthesis, was up-regulated in muscle of SOD1(G86R) mice and ALS patients, and in muscle of wild-type mice after surgically induced denervation. Conversely, inhibition of GCS in wild-type mice, following transient peripheral nerve injury, reversed the overexpression of genes in muscle involved in oxidative metabolism and delayed motor recovery. GCS inhibition in SOD1(G86R) mice also affected the expression of metabolic genes and induced a loss of muscle strength and morphological deterioration of the motor endplates. These findings suggest that GSLs may play a critical role in ALS muscle pathology and could lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets.
Project description:Fungal glucosylceramide (GlcCer) is a plasma membrane sphingolipid in which the sphingosine backbone is unsaturated in carbon position 8 (C8) and methylated in carbon position 9 (C9). Studies in the fungal pathogen, Cryptococcus neoformans, have shown that loss of GlcCer synthase activity results in complete loss of virulence in the mouse model. However, whether the loss of virulence is due to the lack of the enzyme or to the loss of the sphingolipid is not known. In this study, we used genetic engineering to alter the chemical structure of fungal GlcCer and studied its effect on fungal growth and pathogenicity. Here we show that unsaturation in C8 and methylation in C9 is required for virulence in the mouse model without affecting fungal growth in vitro or common virulence factors. However, changes in GlcCer structure led to a dramatic susceptibility to membrane stressors resulting in increased cell membrane permeability and rendering the fungal mutant unable to grow within host macrophages. Biophysical studies using synthetic vesicles containing GlcCer revealed that the saturated and unmethylated sphingolipid formed vesicles with higher lipid order that were more likely to phase separate into ordered domains. Taken together, these studies show for the first time that a specific structure of GlcCer is a major regulator of membrane permeability required for fungal pathogenicity.
Project description:The involvement of the plasma membrane in the metabolism of the sphingolipids sphingomyelin (SM) and glucosylceramide (GlcCer) was studied, employing fluorescent short-chain analogues of these lipids, 6-[N-(7-nitro-2,1,3-benzoxadiazol-4-yl) amino]hexanoylsphingosylphosphorylcholine (C6-NBD-SM), C6-NBD-GlcCer and their common biosynthetic precursor C6-NBD-ceramide (C6-NBD-Cer). Although these fluorescent short-chain analogues are metabolically active, some caution is to be taken in view of potential changes in biophysical/biochemical properties of the lipid compared with its natural counterpart. However, these short-chain analogues offer the advantage of studying the lipid metabolic enzymes in their natural environment, since detergent solubilization is not necessary for measuring their activity. These studies were carried out with several cell types, including two phenotypes (differing in state of differentiation) of HT29 cells. Degradation and biosynthesis of C6-NBD-SM and C6-NBD-GlcCer were determined in intact cells, in their isolated plasma membranes, and in plasma membranes isolated from rat liver tissue. C6-NBD-SM was found to be subject to extensive degradation in the plasma membrane, due to neutral sphingomyelinase (N-SMase) activity. The extent of C6-NBD-SM hydrolysis showed a general cell-type dependence and turned out to be dependent on the state of cell differentiation, as revealed for HT29 cells. In undifferentiated HT29 cells N-SMase activity was at least threefold higher than in its differentiated counterpart. In contrast, in all cell types studied, very little if any biosynthesis of C6-NBD-SM from the precursor C6-NBD-Cer occurred. Moreover, in the case of C6-NBD-GlcCer, neither hydrolytic nor synthetic activity was found to be associated with the plasma membrane. These results are discussed in the context of the involvement of the sphingolipids SM and GlcCer in signal transduction pathways in the plasma membrane.
Project description:The glycolipid transfer protein, GLTP, can be found in the cytoplasm, and it has a FFAT-like motif (two phenylalanines in an acidic tract) that targets it to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). We have previously shown that GLTP can bind to a transmembrane ER protein, vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein A (VAP-A), which is involved in a wide range of ER functions. We have addressed the mechanisms that might regulate the association between GLTP and the VAP proteins by studying the capacity of GLTP to recognize different N-linked acyl chain species of glucosylceramide. We used surface plasmon resonance and a lipid transfer competition assay to show that GLTP prefers shorter N-linked fully saturated acyl chain glucosylceramides, such as C8, C12, and C16, whereas long C18, C20, and C24-glucosylceramides are all bound more weakly and transported more slowly than their shorter counterparts. Changes in the intrinsic GLTP tryptophan fluorescence blueshifts, also indicate a break-point between C16- and C18-glucosylceramide in the GLTP sensing ability. It has long been postulated that GLTP would be a sensor in the sphingolipid synthesis machinery, but how this mechanistically occurs has not been addressed before. It is unclear what proteins the GLTP VAP association would influence. Here we found that if GLTP has a bound GlcCer the association with VAP-A is weaker. We have also used a formula for identifying putative FFAT-domains, and we identified several potential VAP-interactors within the ceramide and sphingolipid synthesis pathways that could be candidates for regulation by GLTP.
Project description:A fungus-specific glucosylceramide (GlcCer), which contains a unique sphingoid base possessing two double bonds and a methyl substitution, is essential for pathogenicity in fungi. Although the biosynthetic pathway of the GlcCer has been well elucidated, little is known about GlcCer catabolism because a GlcCer-degrading enzyme (glucocerebrosidase) has yet to be identified in fungi. We found a homologue of endoglycoceramidase tentatively designated endoglycoceramidase-related protein 1 (EGCrP1) in several fungal genomic databases. The recombinant EGCrP1 hydrolyzed GlcCer but not other glycosphingolipids, whereas endoglycoceramidase hydrolyzed oligosaccharide-linked glycosphingolipids but not GlcCer. Disruption of egcrp1 in Cryptococcus neoformans, a typical pathogenic fungus causing cryptococcosis, resulted in the accumulation of fungus-specific GlcCer and immature GlcCer that possess sphingoid bases without a methyl substitution concomitant with a dysfunction of polysaccharide capsule formation. These results indicated that EGCrP1 participates in the catabolism of GlcCer and especially functions to eliminate immature GlcCer in vivo that are generated as by-products due to the broad specificity of GlcCer synthase. We conclude that EGCrP1, a glucocerebrosidase identified for the first time in fungi, controls the quality of GlcCer by eliminating immature GlcCer incorrectly generated in C. neoformans, leading to accurate processing of fungus-specific GlcCer.
Project description:Chemical crop protection is widely used to control plant diseases. However, the adverse effects of pesticide use on human health and environment, resistance development and the impact of regulatory requirements on the crop protection market urges the agrochemical industry to explore innovative and alternative approaches. In that context, we demonstrate here the potential of camelid single domain antibodies (VHHs) generated against fungal glucosylceramides (fGlcCer), important pathogenicity factors. To this end, llamas were immunized with purified fGlcCer and a mixture of mycelium and spores of the fungus Botrytis cinerea, one of the most important plant pathogenic fungi. The llama immune repertoire was subsequently cloned in a phage display vector to generate a library with a diversity of at least 108 different clones. This library was incubated with fGlcCer to identify phages that bind to fGlcCer, and VHHs that specifically bound fGlcCer but not mammalian or plant-derived GlcCer were selected. They were shown to inhibit the growth of B. cinerea in vitro, with VHH 41D01 having the highest antifungal activity. Moreover, VHH 41D01 could reduce disease symptoms induced by B. cinerea when sprayed on tomato leaves. Based on all these data, anti-fGlcCer VHHs show the potential to be used as an alternative approach to combat fungal plant diseases.