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Hum Mol Genet. 2003 Aug 1;12(15):1881-95.

Inactivation of ether lipid biosynthesis causes male infertility, defects in eye development and optic nerve hypoplasia in mice.

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Universit├Ąt Heidelberg, Biochemie-Zentrum Heidelberg (BZH), Im Neuenheimer Feld 328, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


Although known for almost 80 years, the physiological role of plasmalogens (PLs), the major mammalian ether lipids (ELs), is still enigmatic. Humans that lack ELs suffer from rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata (RCDP), a peroxisomal disorder usually resulting in death in early childhood. In order to learn more about the functions of ELs, we generated a mouse model for RCDP by a targeted disruption of the dihydroxyacetonephosphate acyltransferase gene. The mutant mice revealed multiple abnormalities, such as male infertility, defects in eye development, cataract and optic nerve hypoplasia, some of which were also observed in RCDP. Mass spectroscopic analysis demonstrated the presence of highly unsaturated fatty acids including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in brain PLs and the occurrence of PLs in lipid raft microdomains (LRMs) isolated from brain myelin. In mutants, PLs were completely absent and the concentration of brain DHA was reduced. The marker proteins flotillin-1 and F3/contactin were found in brain LRMs in reduced concentrations. In addition, the gap junctional protein connexin 43, known to be recruited to LRMs and essential for lens development and spermatogenesis, was down-regulated in embryonic fibroblasts of the EL-deficient mice. Free cholesterol, an important constituent of LRMs, was found in these fibroblasts to be accumulated in a perinuclear compartment. These data suggest that the EL-deficient mice allow the identification of new phenotypes not related so far to EL-deficiency (male sterility, defects in myelination and optic nerve hypoplasia) and indicate that PLs are required for the correct assembly and function of LRMs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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