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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1988 Aug 12;961(3):316-27.

Lipid peroxidation and phospholipase A2 activity in liposomes composed of unsaturated phospholipids: a structural basis for enzyme activation.

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  • 1University of Southern California, Institute for Toxicology, Los Angeles 90033.


The effect of lipid peroxidation on membrane structure and phospholipase A2 activity was studied using liposomes composed of bovine liver phosphatidylcholine (PC) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE). The phospholipids were mixed at set ratios and sonicated to yield small unilamellar vesicles. The liposome preparations were subjected to lipid peroxidation as induced by cumene hydroperoxide and hematin. Under these conditions, a sharp increase in lipid peroxidation was noted over a 30 min incubation period and was accompanied by loss of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Liposomes enriched in PE were most extensively peroxidized with a preferred oxidation of this phospholipid. The extent of PC oxidation was also greater in liposomes containing the largest proportions of PE. Analysis of liposome anisotropy, via steady-state fluorescence polarization of diphenylhexatriene indicated that progressive increases in either PE content or the level of lipid peroxidation increased the apparent microviscosity of the vesicles. Moreover, lipid peroxidation increased anisotropy more effectively than variations in the ratios of PE vs. PC. Thus, peroxidation of 5-10% of the phospholipids produced the same anisotropy increase as a 20% increase in the ratio of PE vs. PC. Analysis of vesicle turbidity suggested that fusion was also more readily achieved through lipid peroxidation. When liposomes were incubated with 0.4 U/ml of snake venom phospholipase A2, a direct correlation was found between the degree of lipid peroxidation and the extent of phospholipid hydrolysis. The more unsaturated phospholipid, PE, was most extensively hydrolyzed following peroxidation. Increasing the proportion of PE also resulted in more extensive phospholipid hydrolysis. These findings indicate that lipid peroxidation produces a general increase in membrane viscosity which is associated with vesicle instability and enhanced phospholipase A2 attack. A structural basis for membrane phospholipase A2 activation as a consequence of lipid peroxidation is discussed in light of these findings.

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