We harvested canalicular-enriched plasma membranes of hepatocytes and collected fistula bile from male rats and isolated the sphingomyelins. Following sphingomyelinase hydrolysis, we identified the sphingomyelin molecular species on the basis of their benzoylated ceramide derivatives employing high performance liquid chromatography. Sphingomyelin constitutes ≤3% of total biliary phospholipids (which are mostly sn-1 16:0 long-chain phosphatidylcholines) and approximately 30% of canalicular-enriched membranes. In both cases, the principal molecular species were composed of 16:0, 18:0, 20:0, 22:0, 23:0, 24:0, 24:1 and 24:2 fatty acid classes. However, the 16:0 fatty acid species was enriched in biliary sphingomyelin to a significantly greater degree than in sphingomyelins of canalicular-enriched plasma membranes (46% vs. 25% of total). We argue a physical-chemical case for laterally separated domains of very long chain sphingomyelins on the exoplasmic leaflet of the canalicular membrane. We bolster our hypothesis by the likelihood that the least hydrophobic, e.g., 16:0 sphingomyelin molecular species, are miscible with biliary phosphatidylcholines, and are secreted into bile. Laterally separated domains of very long chain sphingomyelins on the exoplasmic leaflet of the canalicular membrane could provide a means of sequestering cholesterol molecules prior to secretion into bile.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 15, 1999
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