The 4,5-double bond of ceramide regulates its dipole potential, elastic properties, and packing behavior

Howard L. Brockman, Maureen M. Momsen, Rhoderick E Brown, Linli He, Jiong Chun, Hoe Sup Byun, Robert Bittman

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The biological activities of ceramides show a large variation with small changes in molecular structure. To help understand how the structure regulates the activity of this important lipid second messenger, we investigated the interfacial features of a series of synthetic ceramide analogs in monomolecular films at the argon-buffer interface. To minimize differences arising from the N-acyl moiety, each analog had either a W-hexadecanoyl or a N-cis-4-hexadecenoyl moiety amide linked to the nitrogen of the sphingosine backbone. We found that the trans 4,5-unsaturation in the sphingosine backbone promoted closer packing and lower compressibilities of ceramide analogs in interfaces relative to comparable saturated species. Moreover, structures with this feature exhibited dipole potentials as much as 150-250 mV higher than comparable compounds lacking 4,5-unsaturation. The results support the hypothesis by M.C. Yappert and co-workers that trans unsaturation in the vicinity of C4 of the sphingoid backbone augments intramolecular hydration/hydrogen bonding in the polar region. This intramolecular hydration may allow the close packing of the ceramide molecules and engender their high dipole potentials. These properties of ceramides and their analogs may be important determinants of biological function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1722-1731
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by U.S. Public Health Service grants HL16660 (R.B.), HL49180 (H.L.B.), and HL GM45928 (R.E.B.) and by the Hormel Foundation (H.L.B. and R.E.B.).


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