Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Abstract: In most cell types the major pathway of sphingomyelin synthesis is the direct transfer of the phosphocholine head group from phosphatidylcholine to ceramide catalyzed by the enzyme l-acylsphingosine:phosphatidylcholine phosphocholinetransferase (SM synthase; EC 2.7.8.-). Although this pathway has been demonstrated in brain tissue, its quantitative importance has been questioned. An alternative biosynthetic pathway for sphingomyelin synthesis in brain tissue has been proposed, viz., the direct transfer of phosphoethanolamine from phosphatidylethanolamine to ceramide, followed by methylation of the ethanolamine moiety to a choline group. We have evaluated various possible biosynthetic pathways of sphingomyelin synthesis in rat spinal cord oligodendrocytes, the myelin-forming cells of the CNS, by labeling cells in culture with radiolabeled choline, ethanolamine, or serine. Our results indicate that, in oligodendrocytes, most of the phosphocholine for the biosynthesis of sphingomyelin is provided by phosphatidylcholine, which is predominantly derived from de novo synthesis. No evidence was found for the operation of the alternative pathway via ceramide-phosphoethanolamine. Furthermore, our results indicate that a small pool of phosphatidylcholine is provided by methylation of phosphatidylethanolamine, which in turn is formed preferentially by decarboxylation of phosphatidylserine.
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