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FEBS Lett. 2000 May 4;473(1):81-4.

Functional characterization of human sphingosine kinase-1.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, 353 Basic Science Building, 3900 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA.


Sphingosine kinase catalyzes the phosphorylation of sphingosine to form sphingosine 1-phosphate (SPP), a novel lipid mediator with both intra- and extracellular functions. Based on sequence identity to murine sphingosine kinase (mSPHK1a), we cloned and characterized the first human sphingosine kinase (hSPHK1). The open reading frame of hSPHK1 encodes a 384 amino acid protein with 85% identity and 92% similarity to mSPHK1a at the amino acid level. Similar to mSPHK1a, when HEK293 cells were transfected with hSPHK1, there were marked increases in sphingosine kinase activity resulting in elevated SPP levels. hSPHK1 also specifically phosphorylated D-erythro-sphingosine and to a lesser extent sphinganine, but not other lipids, such as D,L-threo-dihydrosphingosine, N, N-dimethylsphingosine, diacylglycerol, ceramide, or phosphatidylinositol. Northern analysis revealed that hSPHK1 was widely expressed with highest levels in adult liver, kidney, heart and skeletal muscle. Thus, hSPHK1 belongs to a highly conserved unique lipid kinase family that regulates diverse biological functions.

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