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J Lipid Res. 2012 Mar;53(3):430-6. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M022715. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

Ablation of ceramide synthase 2 strongly affects biophysical properties of membranes.

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iMed.UL, Research Institute for Medicines and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculdade de Farmácia, Universidade de Lisboa, 1649-003 Lisboa, Portugal.


Little is known about the effects of altering sphingolipid (SL) acyl chain structure and composition on the biophysical properties of biological membranes. We explored the biophysical consequences of depleting very long acyl chain (VLC) SLs in membranes prepared from lipid fractions isolated from a ceramide synthase 2 (CerS2)-null mouse, which is unable to synthesize C22-C24 ceramides. We demonstrate that ablation of CerS2 has different effects on liver and brain, causing a significant alteration in the fluidity of the membrane and affecting the type and/or extent of the phases present in the membrane. These changes are a consequence of the depletion of VLC and unsaturated SLs, which occurs to a different extent in liver and brain. In addition, ablation of CerS2 causes changes in intrinsic membrane curvature, leading to strong morphological alterations that promote vesicle adhesion, membrane fusion, and tubule formation. Together, these results show that depletion of VLC-SLs strongly affects membrane biophysical properties, which may compromise cellular processes that critically depend on membrane structure, such as trafficking and sorting.

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