The intracellular location of sphingomyelin formation via the cholinephosphotransferase reaction from both endogenous and exogenous phosphatidylcholine and ceramide substrates has been studied in the subcellular membrane fractions prepared from mouse fibroblasts. The enzyme was found to be located in both the plasma membrane and the Golgi fractions. Activity in the Golgi fraction was stimulated to a greater extent by the addition of exogenous ceramide than was the activity in the plasma membrane fraction. It is concluded that endogenous phosphatidylcholine is available to the cholinephosphotransferase at saturating concentration and, therefore, is not rate-limiting. In contrast, the very low concentration of endogenous ceramide seems to limit the reaction rate, necessitating supplementation with exogenous material. Both endogenous substrates are shown to be utilized in an intramembranous rather than an intermembranous reaction. The capacity of the plasma membrane fraction to synthesize sphingomyelin from endogenous phosphatidylcholine and ceramide was found to be sufficiently high to account for the rate of net synthesis of plasma membrane-bound sphingomyelin observed in the logarithmically multiplying cell culture. In contrast, the Golgi fraction displayed only 26% of the expected capacity, but it was stimulated 6-fold by the addition of exogenous ceramide. These results demonstrate that the total cellular sphingomyelin of the mouse fibroblasts can be provided via the cholinephosphotransferase pathway and that the plasma membrane and the Golgi fraction are most probably the intracellular sites of sphingomyelin biosynthesis. © 1982.
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