Membrane morphology determines diacylglycerol kinase α substrate acyl chain specificity
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Diacylglycerol kinases catalyze the ATP-dependent phosphorylation of diacylglycerol (DAG) to produce phosphatidic acid (PA). In humans, the alpha isoform (DGKα) has emerged as a potential target in the treatment of cancer due to its anti-tumor and pro-immune responses. However, its mechanism of action at a molecular level is not fully understood. In this work, a systematic investigation of the role played by the membrane in the regulation of the enzymatic properties of human DGKα is presented. By using a cell-free system with purified DGKα and model membranes of variable physical and chemical properties, it is shown that membrane physical properties determine human DGKα substrate acyl chain specificity. In model membranes with a flat morphology; DGKα presents high enzymatic activity, but it is not able to differentiate DAG molecular species. Furthermore, DGKα enzymatic properties are insensitive to membrane intrinsic curvature. However, in the presence of model membranes with altered morphology, specifically the presence of physically curved membrane structures, DGKα bears substrate acyl chain specificity for palmitic acid-containing DAG. The present results identify changes in membrane morphology as one possible mechanism for the depletion of specific pools of DAG as well as the production of specific pools of PA by DGKα, adding an extra layer of regulation on the interconversion of these two potent lipid-signaling molecules. It is proposed that the interplay between membrane physical (shape) and chemical (lipid composition) properties guarantee a fine-tuned signal transduction system dependent on the levels and molecular species of DAG and PA.
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