Platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolases (PAF-AHs) are a group of enzymes that hydrolyze the sn-2 acetyl ester of PAF (phospholipase A2 activity) but not phospholipids with two long fatty acyl groups. Our previous studies showed that membrane-bound human plasma PAF-AH (pPAF-AH) accesses its substrate only from the aqueous phase, which raises the possibility that this enzyme can hydrolyze a variety of lipid esters that are partially soluble in the aqueous phase. Here we show that pPAF-AH has broad substrate specificity in that it hydrolyzes short-chain diacylglycerols, triacylglycerols, and acetylated alkanols, and displays phospholipase A1 activity. On the basis of all of the substrate specificity results, it appears that the minimal structural requirement for a good pPAF-AH substrate is the portion of a glyceride derivative that includes an sn-2 ester and a reasonably hydrophobic chain in the position occupied by the sn-1 chain. In vivo, pPAF-AH is bound to high and low density lipoproteins, and we show that the apparent maximal velocity for this enzyme is not influenced by lipoprotein binding and that the enzyme hydrolyzes tributyroylglycerol as well as the recombinant pPAF-AH does. Broad substrate specificity is also observed for the structurally homologous PAF-AH which occurs intracellularly [PAF-AH(II)] as well as for the PAF-AH from the lower eukaryote Physarum polycephalum although pPAF-AH and PAF-AH(II) tolerate the removal of the sn-3 headgroup better than the PAF-AH from P. polycephalum does. In contrast, the intracellular PAF-AH found in mammalian brain [PAF-AH(Ib) α1/α1 and α2/α2 homodimers] is more selectively operative on compounds with a short acetyl chain although this enzyme also displays significant phospholipase A1 activity.
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