Glycosphingolipids (GSLs) are important constituents of lipid rafts and caveolae, are essential for the normal development of cells, and are adhesion sites for various infectious agents. One strategy for modulating GSL composition in lipid rafts is to selectively transfer GSL to or from these putative membrane microdomains. Glycolipid transfer protein (GLTP) catalyzes selective intermembrane transfer of GSLs. To enable effective use of GLTP as a tool to modify the glycolipid content of membranes, it is imperative to understand how the membrane regulates GLTP action. In this study, GLTP partitioning to membranes was analyzed by monitoring the fluorescence resonance energy transfer from tryptophans and tyrosines of GLTP to N-(5-dimethyl-aminonaphthalene-1- sulfonyl)-1,2-dihexadecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-ethanolamine present in bilayer vesicles. GLTP partitioned to POPC vesicles even when no GSL was present. GLTP interaction with model membranes was nonpenetrating, as assessed by protein-induced changes in lipid monolayer surface pressure, and nonperturbing in that neither membrane fluidity nor order were affected, as monitored by anisotropy of 1,6-diphenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene and 6-dodecanoyl-N,N-dimethyl-2-naphthylamine, even though the tryptophan anisotropy of GLTP increased in the presence of vesicles. Ionic strength, vesicle packing, and vesicle lipid composition affected GLTP partitioning to the membrane and led to the following conclusion: Conditions that increase the ratio of bound/unbound GLTP do not guarantee increased transfer activity, but conditions that decrease the ratio of bound/unbound GLTP always diminish transfer. A model of GLTP interaction with the membrane, based on the partitioning equilibrium data and consistent with the kinetics of GSL transfer, is presented and solved mathematically.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We are grateful for support provided by National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences (045928) and The Hormel Foundation.