Sphingomyelin (SM) is a major sphingolipid in mammalian cells and is reported to form specific lipid domains together with cholesterol. However, methods to examine the membrane distribution of SM are limited. We demonstrated in model membranes that fluorescent protein conjugates of 2 specific SM-binding toxins, lysenin (Lys) and equinatoxin II (EqtII), recognize different membrane distributions of SM; Lys exclusively binds clustered SM, whereas EqtII preferentially binds dispersed SM. Freeze-fracture immunoelectron microscopy showed that clustered but not dispersed SM formed lipid domains on the cell surface. Glycolipids and the membrane concentration of SM affect the SM distribution pattern on the plasma membrane. Using derivatives of Lys and EqtII as SM distribution-sensitive probes, we revealed the exclusive accumulation of SM clusters in the midbody at the time of cytokinesis. Interestingly, apical membranes of differentiated epithelial cells exhibited dispersed SM distribution, whereas SM was clustered in basolateral membranes. Clustered but not dispersed SM was absent from the cell surface of acid sphingomyelinase-deficient Niemann-Pick type A cells. These data suggest that both the SM content and membrane distribution are crucial for pathophysiological events bringing therapeutic perspective in the role of SM membrane distribution.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology