Biological and Medicinal Chemistry

Profiling of Glycosphingolipids with SCDase Digestion and HPLC-FLD-MS

Christopher Cairo University of Alberta


Lipid components of cells and tissues feature a large diversity of structures that present a challenging problem for molecular analysis. Glycolipids from mammalian cells contain glycosphingolipids (GSLs) as their major glycolipid component, and these structures vary in the identity of the glycan headgroup as well as the structure of the fatty acid and sphingosine (Sph) tails. Analysis of intact GSLs is challenging due to the low abundance of these species. Here, we develop a new strategy for the analysis of lyso-GSL (l-GSL), GSL that retain linkage of the glycan headgroup with the Sph base. The analysis begins with digestion of a GSL sample with sphingolipid ceramide N-deacylase (SCDase), followed by labelling with an amine-reactive fluorophore. The sample was then analyzed by HPLC-FLD-MS and quantitated by addition of an external standard. This method was compared analysis of GSL glycans after cleavage by an Endoglycoceramidase (EGCase) enzyme and labeling with a fluorophore (2-anthranilic acid, 2AA). The two methods are complementary, with EGCase providing improved signal (due to fewer species) and SCDase providing analysis of lyso-GSL. Importantly the SCDase method provides Sph composition of GSL species. We demonstrate the method on cultured human cells (Jurkat T cells) and tissue homogenate (porcine brain).


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