Natural Ceramides and Lysophospholipids Cosegregate in Fluid Phosphatidylcholine Bilayers

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The mode of interactions between palmitoyl lysophosphatidylcholine (palmitoyl lyso-PC) or other lysophospholipids (lyso-PLs) and palmitoyl ceramide (PCer) or other ceramide analogs in dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) bilayers has been examined. PCer is known to segregate laterally into a ceramide-rich phase at concentrations that depend on the nature of the ceramides and the co-phospholipids. In DOPC bilayers, PCer forms a ceramide-rich phase at concentrations above 10 mol%. In the presence of 20 mol% palmitoyl lyso-PC in the DOPC bilayer, the lateral segregation of PCer was markedly facilitated (segregation at lower PCer concentrations). The thermostability of the PCer-rich phase in the presence of palmitoyl lyso-PC was also increased compared to that in the absence of palmitoyl lyso-PC. Other saturated lyso-PLs (e.g., palmitoyl lyso-phosphatidylethanolamine and lyso-sphingomyelin) also facilitated the lateral segregation of PCer in a similar manner as palmitoyl lyso-PC. When examined in the DOPC bilayer, it appeared that the association between palmitoyl lyso-PC and PCer was equimolar in nature. It is proposed that the interaction of PCer with lyso-PLs was driven by the need of ceramide to obtain a large-headgroup co-lipid, and saturated lyso-PLs were preferred co-lipids over DOPC because of the nature of their acyl chain. Structural analogs of PCer (1- or 3-deoxy-PCer) were also associated with palmitoyl lyso-PC, similarly to PCer, suggesting that the ceramide/lyso-PL interaction was not sensitive to structural alterations in the ceramide molecule. Binary complexes containing palmitoyl lyso-PC and ceramide were prepared, and these had a bilayer structure as ascertained by transmission electron microscopy. It is concluded that ceramides and lyso-PLs associated with each other both in binary bilayers and in ternary systems based on the DOPC bilayers. This association may have biological relevance under conditions in which both sphingomyelinases and phospholipase A2 enzymes are activated, such as during inflammatory processes.