Secretory phospholipase A2 hydrolyzes phospholipids at a lipid-water interface, resulting in pro-inflammatory products being released from cell membranes. Healthy cells are resistant to cleavage by this enzyme, but apoptotic cells become susceptible to its activity. Only bilayers with certain characteristics are able to be hydrolyzed. Most recently, studies in this lab have emphasized the idea that the biophysical state of the bilayer (in terms of lipid order, spacing, and fluidity) is relevant in determining the probability of one phospholipid escaping the membrane to be hydrolyzed. Prior to this study, it had been shown that apoptotic cells undergo biophysical alterations that weaken inter-lipid interactions early in apoptosis. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine these changes in more detail, define them more clearly on the molecular level, and suggest possible mechanisms responsible for their occurrence. First, the role of increased membrane permeability in susceptibility to the phospholipase was investigated. S49 cells were treated with ionomycin or apoptotic agents and assayed for merocyanine 540 staining of the membrane and membrane permeability to a vital dye. Human group X and snake venom isoforms were active towards all treated cells, but human groups V and IIa only hydrolyzed cells that were moderately permeable to the vital dye. Different isoforms must then be sensitive to different membrane properties. Second, the role of membrane oxidation in cell membrane vulnerability to the phospholipase (specifically human group IIa) was tested. The temporal onset of lipid peroxidation was assayed during apoptosis. This correlated with the onset of susceptibility to the IIa isoform. Direct oxidizers were then used to verify this result in isolation from other apoptotic membrane changes. Third, biophysical alterations during thapsigargin-induced apoptosis were examined using TMA-DPH and Patman. Data from these probes in artificial bilayers undergoing phase transitions were used to quantify the decrease in interlipid interactions and predict a 50 -- 100-fold increase in the probability of phospholipid protrusions. Patman equilibration kinetics also revealed more molecular detail about the biophysical changes related to susceptibility. Finally, temperature- and ionomyin-induced alterations in membrane properties were compared. Both increased fluidity, but only ionomycin caused susceptibility. Patman equilibration kinetic analysis could distinguish responsible membrane properties. Actin fragmentation during apoptosis or calcium loading is proposed as the mechanism.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Physiology and Developmental Biology



Date Submitted


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secretory phospholipase A2, fluorescence spectroscopy, confocal microscopy, flow cytometry, membrane biophysics, apoptosis, actin, cytoskeleton