Molecular cloning, characterization, and expression of a novel human neutral sphingomyelinase

Subroto Chatterjee, Hui Han, Sandra Rollins, Tavia Cleveland

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57 Scopus citations


Neutral sphingomyelinase (N-SMase) has emerged as an important cell membrane-associated enzyme that participates in several signal transduction and cell regulatory phenomena. Using expression cloning, we have identified a 3.7-kilobase pair cDNA transcript for N-SMase whose open reading frame predicts a 397-amino acid polypeptide. Transfection of COS-7 cells with cDNA for N-SMase resulted in a marked increase in N-SMase activity. Recombinant N- SMase (r-N-SMase) had the following physical-chemical properties. Mg2+ activated and Cu2+ and glutathione inhibited the activity of r-N-SMase. In contrast, dithiothreitol did not alter the activity of the enzyme. Of several phospholipids examined, sphingomyelin was the preferred substrate for r-N- SMase. The apparent molecular mass of r-N-SMase derived from COS-7 cells was ~90 kDa, similar to the native neutral sphingomyelinase prepared from human urine. However, upon expression in Escherichia coli, the apparent molecular mass of the recombinant enzyme was ~45 kDa. We speculate that this apparent difference in recombinant enzymes derived from COS-7 and E. coli cells may be due to extensive post-transcriptional changes. r-N-SMase has numerous post- transcriptional modification sites such as phosphorylation sites via protein kinase C, casein kinase II, tyrosine kinase, and cAMP- and cGMP-dependent protein kinases as well as sites for glycosylation and myristoylation. Amino acid sequence alignment studies revealed that r-N-SMase has some similarity to acid sphingomyelinase and significant homology to the death domains of tumor necrosis factor-α receptor-1 and Fas/Apo-I. We believe that the molecular cloning and characterization of N-SMase cDNA will accelerate the process to define its role as a key regulator in apoptosis, lipid and lipoprotein metabolism, and other cell regulatory pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37407-37412
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 24 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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