[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Little is known about the organization of lipids in biomembranes. Lipid rafts are defined as sphingolipid- and cholesterol-rich clusters in the membrane. Details of the lipid distribution of lipid rafts are not well characterized mainly because of a lack of appropriate probes. Ganglioside GM1-specific protein, cholera toxin, has long been the only lipid probe of lipid rafts. Recently it was shown that earthworm toxin, lysenin, specifically recognizes sphingomyelin-rich membrane domains. Binding of lysenin to sphingomyelin is accompanied by the oligomerization of the toxin that leads to pore formation in the target membrane. In this study, we generated a truncated lysenin mutant that does not oligomerize and thus is non-toxic. Using this mutant lysenin, we showed that plasma membrane sphingomyelin-rich domains are spatially distinct from ganglioside GM1-rich membrane domains in Jurkat T cells. Like T cell receptor activation and cross-linking of GM1, cross-linking of sphingomyelin induced calcium influx and ERK phosphorylation in the cell. However, unlike CD3 or GM1, cross-linking of sphingomyelin did not induce significant protein tyrosine phosphorylation. Combination of lysenin and sphingomyelinase treatment suggested the involvement of G-protein-coupled receptor in sphingomyelin-mediated signal transduction. These results thus suggest that the sphingomyelin-rich domain provides a functional signal cascade platform that is distinct from those provided by T cell receptor or GM1. Our study therefore elucidates the spatial and functional heterogeneity of lipid rafts.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Lysenin is a sphingomyelin (SM)-specific toxin isolated from the coelomic fluid of the earthworm Eisenia foetida. Lysenin comprises a family of proteins together with lysenin-related protein 1 (LRP-1, lysenin 2) and LRP-2 (lysenin 3). In the present study, we characterized LRP-1 and LRP-2 together with lysenin using maltose-binding-protein-tagged recombinant proteins. LRP-2 specifically bound SM and induced hemolysis like lysenin. In contrast the binding and hemolytic activities of LRP-1 were 10 times less than those of lysenin and LRP-2. Lysenin and LRP-2 share 30 common sites of aromatic amino acids. Among them, only one position, phenylalanine 210, is substituted for isoleucine in LRP-1. The activity of LRP-1 was dramatically increased by introducing a single amino acid substitution of isoleucine 210 to phenylalanine, suggesting the importance of this aromatic amino acid in biological activities of lysenin and LRPs. The importance of aromatic amino acids was further indicated by a systematic tryptophan to alanine mutation of lysenin. Lysenin contains six tryptophan residues of which five are conserved in LRP-1 and -2. We showed that the conserved tryptophans but not the nonconserved one were required both in the recognition of SM and in the hemolytic activity of lysenin. Our results suggest the importance of tryptophan in the toxin function likely due to a direct recognition of SM or in maintaining the protein structure.