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Biophys J. 2001 Feb;80(2):789-800.

Toward understanding interfacial activation of secretory phospholipase A2 (PLA2): membrane surface properties and membrane-induced structural changes in the enzyme contribute synergistically to PLA2 activation.

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Section of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Department of Molecular Biosciences, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66045, USA.


Phospholipase A2 (PLA2) hydrolyzes phospholipids to free fatty acids and lysolipids and thus initiates the biosynthesis of eicosanoids and platelet-activating factor, potent mediators of inflammation, allergy, apoptosis, and tumorigenesis. The relative contributions of the physical properties of membranes and the structural changes in PLA2 to the interfacial activation of PLA2, that is, a strong increase in the lipolytic activity upon binding to the surface of phospholipid membranes or micelles, are not well understood. The present results demonstrate that both binding of PLA2 to phospholipid bilayers and its activity are facilitated by membrane surface electrostatics. Higher PLA2 activity toward negatively charged membranes is shown to result from stronger membrane-enzyme electrostatic interactions rather than selective hydrolysis of the acidic lipid. Phospholipid hydrolysis by PLA2 is followed by preferential removal of the liberated lysolipid and accumulation of the fatty acid in the membrane that may predominantly modulate PLA2 activity by affecting membrane electrostatics and/or morphology. The previously described induction of a flexible helical structure in PLA2 during interfacial activation was more pronounced at higher negative charge densities of membranes. These findings identify a reciprocal relationship between the membrane surface properties, strength of membrane binding of PLA2, membrane-induced structural changes in PLA2, and the enzyme activation.

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