Neutral sphingomyelinase 2 is palmitoylated on multiple cysteine residues: Role of palmitoylation in subcellular localization

Motohiro Tani, Yusuf A. Hannun

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The neutral sphingomyelinases (nSMases) are considered major candidates for mediating the stress-induced production of ceramide. nSMase2, which has two hydrophobic segments near the NH2-terminal region, has been reported to be located at the plasma membrane and play important roles in ceramide-mediated signaling. In this study, we found that nSMase2 is palmitoylated on multiple cysteine residues via thioester bonds. Site-directed mutagenesis of cysteine residues to alanine indicated that two cysteine clusters of the enzyme are multiply palmitoylated; one cluster is located between the two hydrophobic segments, and the second one is located in the middle of the catalytic region of the protein. When overexpressed in the confluent phase of MCF-7 cells, wild-type nSMase2 was strictly localized in the plasma membranes, and the cysteine mutants of each palmitoylated cysteine cluster were seen not only at the plasma membrane but also in some punctate structures. Furthermore, mutation of all potential palmitoylation sites resulted in a dramatic reduction in the plasma membrane distribution and an increase in the punctate structures. The palmitoylation-deficient mutant was directed to lysosomes and rapidly degraded. Palmitoylation had no effect on enzyme activity but affected membrane-association properties of the protein. Finally, the catalytic region of nSMase2 where palmitoylation occurs was found to be localized at the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane. In summary, the results from this study reveal for the first time the palmitoylation of nSMase2 via thioester bonds and its importance in the subcellular localization and stability of this protein.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10047-10056
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Mar 30 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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