Lamellar Phases Composed of Phospholipid, Cholesterol, and Ceramide, as Studied by 2H NMR.
ABSTRACT: Sphingolipids constitute a significant fraction of cellular plasma membrane lipid content. Among sphingolipids, ceramide levels are usually very low. However, in some cell processes like apoptosis, cell membrane ceramide levels increase markedly because of the activation of enzymes like acid sphingomyelinase. This increase can change the physical state of the membrane by promoting molecular order and inducing solid-ordered (So) phase domains. This effect has been observed in a previous 2H NMR study on membranes consisting of palmitoyl sphingomyelin (PSM) and palmitoyl ceramide (PCer). Cholesterol (Chol), too, is present at high concentrations in mammalian plasma membranes and has a favorable interaction with sphingomyelin (SM), together forming domains in the liquid-ordered phase in model membranes. There are reports that Chol is able to displace ceramide (Cer) in SM bilayers and abolish the So phase domains formed by SM:Cer. This ability of Chol appears to be concentration dependent; in membranes with low Chol and high Cer contents, So phase domains rich in Cer coexist with the continuous fluid phase of the membrane. Here, we studied the effect of increasing PCer concentration in PSM:Chol bilayers, using 2H NMR. Chol:PCer mole ratios were 3:1, 3:2, and 3:3, at a fixed 7:3 phospholipid:cholesterol mol ratio. Both PSM and PCer were monitored in separate samples for changes in their physical state by introducing a perdeuterated palmitoyl chain in either molecule. Moreover, the effect of replacing PSM with DPPC was investigated to test the impact on membrane phase behavior of replacing the sphingosine with a palmitoylated glycerol backbone. We found that PCer can increase acyl chain order in both PSM:Chol and DPPC:Chol bilayers. Especially in bilayers with Chol:PCer 1:1 molar ratios, PCer induces highly stable So phase domains in both PSM and DPPC bilayers near 37°C. However, PCer has a more pronounced ordering effect on PSM compared to DPPC bilayers.
Project description:To study the role of the interfacial properties of ceramides in their interlipid interactions, we synthesized palmitoylceramide (PCer) analogs in which a methyl group was introduced to the amide-nitrogen or the C3-oxygen of the sphingosine backbone. A differential scanning calorimetry analysis of equimolar mixtures of palmitoylsphingomyelin (PSM) and PCer showed that these sphingolipids formed a complex gel phase that melted between 67°C and 74°C. The PCer analogs also formed gel phases with PSM, but they melted at lower temperatures compared with the system with PCer. In complex bilayers composed of an unsaturated glycerophospholipid, PSM, and cholesterol, the 3O-methylated ceramide formed a cholesterol-poor ordered phase with PSM. However, the 2N-methylated and doubly methylated (2N and 3O) PCer analogs failed to displace sterol from interactions with PSM. Like PCer, the analogs reduced sterol affinity for the complex bilayers, but this effect was most pronounced for the 3O-methylated ceramide. Taken together, our results show that 2N-methylation weakened the ceramide-PSM interactions, whereas the 3O-methylated ceramide behaved more like PCer in interactions with PSM. Our findings are compatible with the view that interlipid interactions between the amide-nitrogen and neighboring lipids are important for the cohesive properties of sphingolipids in membranes, and this also appears to be a valid model for ceramide.
Project description:Ceramide produced from sphingomyelin in the plasma membrane is purported to affect signaling through changes in the membrane's physical properties. Thermal behavior of N-palmitoyl sphingomyelin (PSM) and N-palmitoyl ceramide (PCer) mixtures in excess water has been monitored by ²H NMR spectroscopy and compared to differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) data. The alternate use of either perdeuterated or proton-based N-acyl chain PSM and PCer in our ²H NMR studies has allowed the separate observation of gel-fluid transitions in each lipid in the presence of the other one, and this in turn has provided direct information on the lipids' miscibility over a wide temperature range. The results provide further evidence of the stabilization of the PSM gel state by PCer. Moreover, overlapping NMR and DSC data reveal that the DSC-signals parallel the melting of the major component (PSM) except at intermediate (20 and 30 mol %) fractions of PCer. In such cases, the DSC endotherm reports on the presumably highly cooperative melting of PCer. Up to at least 50 mol % PCer, PSM and PCer mix ideally in the liquid crystalline phase; in the gel phase, PCer becomes incorporated into PSM:PCer membranes with no evidence of pure solid PCer.
Project description:The sphingoid bases of sphingolipids, including ceramides, can vary in length from 12 to >20 carbons. To study how such length variation affects the bilayer properties of ceramides, we synthesized ceramides consisting of a C12-, C14-, C16-, C18-, or C20-sphing-4-enin derivative coupled to palmitic acid. The ceramides were studied in mixtures with palmitoyloleoylphosphocholine (POPC) and/or palmitoylsphingomyelin (PSM), and in more complex bilayers also containing cholesterol. The trans-parinaric acid lifetimes showed that 12:1- and 14:1-PCer failed to increase the order of POPC bilayers, whereas 16:1-, 18:1-, and 20:1-PCer induced ordered- or gel-phase formation. Nevertheless, all of the analogs were able to thermally stabilize PSM, and a chain-length-dependent increase in the main phase transition temperature of equimolar PSM/Cer bilayers was revealed by differential scanning calorimetry. Similar thermal stabilization of PSM-rich domains by the ceramides was observed in POPC bilayers with a trans-parinaric acid-quenching assay. A cholestatrienol-quenching assay and sterol partitioning experiments showed that 18:1- and 20:1-PCer formed sterol-excluding gel phases with PSM, reducing the overall bilayer affinity of sterol. The effect of 16:1-PCer on sterol distribution was less dramatic, and no displacement of sterol from the PSM environment was observed with 12:1- and 14:1-PCer. The results are discussed in relation to other structural features that affect the bilayer properties of ceramides.
Project description:Using differential scanning calorimetry and lifetime analysis of trans-parinaric acid fluorescence, we have examined how cholesterol and cholesteryl phosphocholine (CholPC) affect gel-phase properties of palmitoyl ceramide (PCer) in 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (POPC) and 1,2-dioleyol-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DOPC) bilayers. By 2H NMR, we also measured fluid-phase interactions among these lipids using deuterated analogs of POPC, PCer, and cholesterol. The PCer-rich gel phase in POPC bilayers (9:1 molar ratio of POPC to PCer) was partially and similarly dissolved (and thermostability decreased) by both cholesterol and CholPC (sterol was present equimolar to PCer, or in fourfold excess). In DOPC bilayers (4:1 DOPC/PCer molar ratio), CholPC was much more efficient in dissolving the PCer-rich gel phase when compared to cholesterol. This can be interpreted as indicating that PCer interaction with POPC was stronger than PCer interaction with DOPC. PCer-CholPC interactions were also more favored in DOPC bilayers compared to POPC bilayers. In the fluid POPC-rich phase, cholesterol increased the order of the acyl chain of d2-PCer much more than did CholPC. In DOPC-rich fluid bilayers, both cholesterol and CholPC increased d2-PCer acyl chain order, and the ordering induced by CholPC was more efficient in DOPC than in POPC bilayers. In fluid POPC bilayers, the ordering of 3-d1-cholesterol by PCer was weak. In summary, we found that in the gel phase, sterol effects on the PCer-rich gel phase were markedly influenced by the acyl chain composition of the fluid PC. The same was true for fluid-phase interactions involving the sterols. Our results further suggest that PCer did not display high affinity toward either of the sterols used. We conclude that the nature of unsaturated phospholipids (POPC versus DOPC) in bilayers has major effects on the properties of ceramide gel phases and on sterol-ceramide-phospholipid interactions in such complex bilayers.
Project description:Sphingomyelins (SMs) and ceramides are known to interact favorably in bilayer membranes. Because ceramide lacks a headgroup that could shield its hydrophobic body from unfavorable interactions with water, accommodation of ceramide under the larger phosphocholine headgroup of SM could contribute to their favorable interactions. To elucidate the role of SM headgroup for SM/ceramide interactions, we explored the effects of reducing the size of the phosphocholine headgroup (removing one, two, or three methyls on the choline moiety, or the choline moiety itself). Using differential scanning calorimetry and fluorescence spectroscopy, we found that the size of the SM headgroup had no marked effect on the thermal stability of ordered domains formed by SM analog/palmitoyl ceramide (PCer) interactions. In more complex bilayers composed of a fluid glycerophospholipid, SM analog, and PCer, the thermal stability and molecular order of the laterally segregated gel domains were roughly identical despite variation in SM headgroup size. We suggest that that the association between PCer and SM analogs was stabilized by ceramide's aversion for disordered phospholipids, by interfacial hydrogen bonding between PCer and the SM analogs, and by attractive van der Waals' forces between saturated chains of PCer and SM analogs.
Project description:Polyunsaturated phospholipids are common in biological membranes and affect the lateral structure of bilayers. We have examined how saturated sphingomyelin (SM; palmitoyl and stearoyl SM (PSM and SSM, respectively)) and phosphatidylcholine (PC; dipalmitoyl PC and 1-palmitoyl-2-stearoyl PC (DPPC and PSPC, respectively)) segregate laterally to form ordered gel phases in increasingly unsaturated PC bilayers (sn-1: 16:0 and sn-2: 18:1...22:6; or sn-1 and sn-2: 18:1...22:6). The formation of gel phases was determined from the lifetime analysis of trans-parinaric acid. Using calorimetry, we also determined gel phase formation by PSM and DPPC in unsaturated PC mixed bilayers. Comparing PSM with DPPC, we observed that PSM formed a gel phase with less order than DPPC at comparable bilayer concentrations. The same was true when SSM was compared with PSPC. Furthermore, we observed that at equal saturated phospholipid concentration, the gel phases formed were less ordered in unsaturated PCs having 16:0 in sn-1, as compared to PCs having unsaturated acyl chains in both sn-1 and sn-2. The gel phases formed by the saturated phospholipids in unsaturated PC bilayers did not appear to achieve properties similar to pure saturated phospholipid bilayers, suggesting that complete lateral phase separation did not occur. Based on scanning calorimetry analysis, the melting of the gel phases formed by PSM and DPPC in unsaturated PC mixed bilayers (at 45 mol % saturated phospholipid) had low cooperativity and hence most likely were of mixed composition, in good agreement with trans-parinaric acid lifetime data. We conclude that both interfacial properties of the saturated phospholipids and their chain length, as well as the presence of 16:0 in sn-1 of the unsaturated PCs and the total number of cis unsaturations and acyl chain length (18 to 22) of the unsaturated PCs, all affected the formation of gel phases enriched in saturated phospholipids, under the conditions used.
Project description:6-Bromo-7-hydroxycoumarin (Bhc)-caged ceramide (Cer) analogs were incorporated into supported lipid bilayers containing a mixture of coexisting liquid-ordered (Lo) and liquid-disordered (Ld) phases. The release of N-palmitoyl and N-butanoyl-D-erythro-sphingosine (C16- and C4-Cer) by the photolysis of caged Cers using long-wavelength UV light was studied using a combination of atomic force microscopy and fluorescence microscopy. This approach demonstrated the ability to generate Cer with spatial and temporal control, providing an alternative method to the enzymatic generation of Cer. The generation of C16-Cer from Bhc-C16-Cer disrupted the Lo domains, with the incorporation of small fluid-phase regions and the disappearance of some smaller domains. Cer-rich gel-phase domains were not observed, in contrast to results reported by either direct Cer incorporation or enzymatic Cer generation. The photorelease of C4-Cer from Bhc-C4-Cer resulted in qualitatively similar changes in bilayer morphology, with the disappearance of some Lo domains and no evidence of Cer-rich gel domains but with a smaller height difference between the ordered and disordered phases.
Project description:Lipid rafts and ceramide (Cer)-platforms are membrane domains that play an important role in several biological processes. Cer-platforms are commonly formed in the plasma membrane by the action of sphingomyelinase (SMase) upon hydrolysis of sphingomyelin (SM) within lipid rafts. The interplay among SMase activity, initial membrane properties (i.e., phase behavior and lipid lateral organization) and lipid composition, and the amount of product (Cer) generated, and how it modulates membrane properties were studied using fluorescence methodologies in model membranes. The activity of SMase was evaluated by following the hydrolysis of radioactive SM. It was observed that 1), the enzyme activity and extent of hydrolysis are strongly dependent on membrane physical properties but not on substrate content, and are higher in raft-like mixtures, i.e., mixtures with liquid-disordered/liquid-ordered phase separation; and 2), Cer-induced alterations are also dependent on membrane composition, specifically the cholesterol (Chol) content. In the lowest-Chol range, Cer segregates together with SM into small ( approximately 8.5 nm) Cer/SM-gel domains. With increasing Chol, the ability of Cer to recruit SM and form gel domains strongly decreases. In the high-Chol range, a Chol-enriched/SM-depleted liquid-ordered phase predominates. Together, these data suggest that in biological membranes, Chol in particular and raft domains in general play an important role in modulating SMase activity and regulating membrane physical properties by restraining Cer-induced alterations.
Project description:We have studied the dependence of the phase and domain characteristics of sphingomyelin (SM)/cholesterol model membranes on sterol content and temperature using deuterium nuclear magnetic resonance. NMR spectra of N-palmitoyl(D31)-D-erythro-sphingosylphosphorylcholine (PSM-d31) were taken for temperatures from 25 to 70°C and cholesterol concentrations of 0-40%. Analogous experiments were performed using 1-palmitoyl,2-palmitoyl(D31)-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC-d31)/cholesterol membranes to carefully compare the data obtained using palmitoyl chains that have similar "kinked" conformations. The constructed phase diagrams exhibit both solid-ordered (so) + liquid-ordered (lo) and liquid-disordered (ld) + lo phase-coexistence regions with a clear three-phase line. Macroscopic (micron-sized) coexistence of ld and lo phases was not observed; instead, line-broadening in the ld+lo region was characterized by intermediate exchange of lipids between the two types of domains. The length scales associated with the domains were estimated to be 75-150 nm for PSM-d31/cholesterol and DPPC-d31/cholesterol model membranes.
Project description:For canonical lipid raft mixtures of cholesterol (chol), N-palmitoylsphingomyelin (PSM), and 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoylphosphatidylcholine (POPC), electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) of spin-labeled phospholipids--which is insensitive to domain size--is used to determine the ternary phase diagram at 23°C. No phase boundaries are found for binary POPC/chol mixtures, nor for ternary mixtures with PSM content <24 mol %. EPR lineshapes indicate that conversion from the liquid-disordered (L(?)) to liquid-ordered (L(o)) phase occurs continuously in this region. Two-component EPR spectra and several tie lines attributable to coexistence of gel (L(?)) and fluid phases are found for ternary mixtures with low cholesterol or low POPC content. For PSM/POPC alone, coexistence of L(?) and L(?) phases occurs over the range 50-95.5 mol % PSM. A further tie line is found at 3 mol % chol with endpoints at 50 and ?77 mol % PSM. For PSM/chol, L(?)-L(o) coexistence occurs over the range 10-38 mol % chol and further tie lines are found at 4.5 and 7 mol % POPC. Two-component EPR spectra indicative of fluid-fluid (L(?)-L(o)) phase separation are found for lipid compositions: 25%<PSM<65%, 5%<chol<30-35%, 65%>POPC>10%, and confirmed by nonlinear EPR. Tie lines are identified in the L(?)-L(o) coexistence region, indicating that the fluid domains are of sufficient size to obey the phase rule. The three-phase triangle is bounded approximately by the compositions 40 and 75 mol % PSM with 10 mol % chol, and 60 mol % PSM with 25 mol % chol. These studies define the compositions of raft-like L(o) phases for a minimal realistic biological lipid mixture.