In mammalian cells, de novo glycerolipid synthesis begins with the acylation of glycerol-3-phosphate, catalyzed by glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferases (GPAT). GPAT2 is a mitochondrial isoform primarily expressed in testis under physiological conditions, and overexpressed in several types of cancers and cancer-derived human cell lines where its expression contributes to the tumor phenotype. Using gene silencing and atomic force microscopy, we studied the correlation between GPAT2 expression and cell surface topography, roughness and membrane permeability in MDA-MB-231 cells. In addition, we analyzed the glycerolipid composition by gas-liquid chromatography. GPAT2 expression altered the arachidonic acid content in glycerolipids, and the lack of GPAT2 seems to be partially compensated by the overexpression of another arachidonic-acid-metabolizing enzyme, AGPAT11. GPAT2 expressing cells exhibited a rougher topography and less membrane damage than GPAT2 silenced cells. Pore-like structures were present only in GPAT2 subexpressing cells, correlating with higher membrane damage evidenced by lactate dehydrogenase release. These GPAT2-induced changes are consistent with its proposed function as a tumor-promoting gene, and might be used as a phenotypic differentiation marker. AFM provides the basis for the identification and quantification of those changes, and demonstrates the utility of this technique in the study of cancer cell biology.
Cattaneo, E. R., Prieto, E. D., Garcia-Fabiani, M. B., Montanaro, M. A., Guillou, H., & Gonzalez-Baro, M. R. (2017). Glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase 2 expression modulates cell roughness and membrane permeability: An atomic force microscopy study. PLoS ONE, 12(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0189031