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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 May 19;106(20):8186-91. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0811269106. Epub 2009 May 5.

Identification of small subunits of mammalian serine palmitoyltransferase that confer distinct acyl-CoA substrate specificities.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA.

Erratum in

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jun 16;106(24):9931.


Serine palmitoyltransferase (SPT) catalyzes the first committed step in sphingolipid biosynthesis. In yeast, SPT is composed of a heterodimer of 2 highly-related subunits, Lcb1p and Lcb2p, and a third subunit, Tsc3p, which increases enzyme activity markedly and is required for growth at elevated temperatures. Higher eukaryotic orthologs of Lcb1p and Lcb2p have been identified, but SPT activity is not highly correlated with coexpression of these subunits and no ortholog of Tsc3p has been identified. Here, we report the discovery of 2 proteins, ssSPTa and ssSPTb, which despite sharing no homology with Tsc3p, each substantially enhance the activity of mammalian SPT expressed in either yeast or mammalian cells and therefore define an evolutionarily conserved family of low molecular weight proteins that confer full enzyme activity. The 2 ssSPT isoforms share a conserved hydrophobic central domain predicted to reside in the membrane, and each interacts with both hLCB1 and hLCB2 as assessed by positive split ubiquitin 2-hybrid analysis. The presence of these small subunits, along with 2 hLCB2 isofoms, suggests that there are 4 distinct human SPT isozymes. When each SPT isozyme was expressed in either yeast or CHO LyB cells lacking endogenous SPT activity, characterization of their in vitro enzymatic activities, and long-chain base (LCB) profiling revealed differences in acyl-CoA preference that offer a potential explanation for the observed diversity of LCB seen in mammalian cells.

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