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J Biol Chem. 2003 Aug 15;278(33):31184-91. Epub 2003 Jun 3.

Cloning and characterization of a mouse endoplasmic reticulum alkaline ceramidase: an enzyme that preferentially regulates metabolism of very long chain ceramides.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston 29425, USA.


Ceramidases deacylate ceramides, important intermediates in the metabolic pathway of sphingolipids. In this study, we report the cloning and characterization of a novel mouse alkaline ceramidase (maCER1) with a highly restricted substrate specificity. maCER1 consists of 287 amino acids, and it has a 28 and 32% identity to the Saccharomyces alkaline ceramidases (YPC1p and YDC1p) and the human alkaline phytoceramidase, respectively. Reverse transcriptase-PCR analysis demonstrated that maCER1 was predominantly expressed in skin. maCER1 was localized to the endoplasmic reticulum as revealed by immunocytochemistry. In vitro biochemical characterization determined that maCER1 hydrolyzed D-erythro-ceramide exclusively but not D-erythro-dihydroceramide or D-ribo-phytoceramide. Similar to other alkaline ceramidases, maCER1 had an alkaline pH optimum of 8.0, and it was activated by Ca2+ but inhibited by Zn2+,Cu2+, and Mn2+. maCER1 was also inhibited by sphingosine, one of its products. Metabolic labeling studies showed that overexpression of maCER1 caused a decrease in the incorporation of radiolabeled dihydrosphingosine into ceramide and complex sphingolipids but led to a concomitant increase in sphingosine-1-P (S1P) in HeLa cells. Mass measurement showed that overexpression of maCER1 selectively lowered the cellular levels of D-erythro-C24:1-ceramide, but not other ceramide species and caused an increase in the levels of S1P. Taken together, these data suggest that maCER1 is a novel alkaline ceramidase with a stringent substrate specificity and that maCER1 is selectively expressed in skin and may have a role in regulating the levels of bioactive lipids ceramide and S1P, as well as complex sphingolipids.

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