Sphingolipid Δ8 unsaturation is important for glucosylceramide biosynthesis and low-temperature performance in Arabidopsis

Ming Chen, Jonathan E. Markham, Edgar B. Cahoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Plants contain a large diversity of sphingolipid structures, arising in part from C4 hydroxylation and Δ4 and Δ8 desaturation of the component long-chain bases (LCBs). Typically, 85-90% of sphingolipid LCBs in Arabidopsis leaves contain a cis or transΔ8 double bond produced by sphingoid LCB Δ8 desaturase (SLD). To understand the metabolic and physiological significance of Δ8 unsaturation, studies were performed using mutants of the Arabidopsis SLD genes AtSLD1 and AtSLD2. Our studies revealed that both genes are constitutively expressed, the corresponding polypeptides are ER-localized, and expression of these genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae yields mixtures of cis/transΔ8 desaturation products, predominantly as trans isomers. Consistent in part with the higher expression of AtSLD1 in Arabidopsis plants, AtSLD1 T-DNA mutants showed large reductions in Δ8 unsaturated LCBs in all organs examined, whereas AtSLD2 mutants showed little change in LCB unsaturation. Double mutants of AtSLD1 and AtSLD2 showed no detectable LCB Δ8 unsaturation. Comprehensive analysis of sphingolipids in rosettes of these mutants revealed a 50% reduction in glucosylceramide levels and a corresponding increase in glycosylinositolphosphoceramides that were restored by complementation with a wild-type copy of AtSLD1. Double sld1 sld2 mutants lacked apparent growth phenotypes under optimal conditions, but displayed altered responses to certain stresses, including prolonged exposure to low temperatures. These results are consistent with a role for LCB Δ8 unsaturation in selective channeling of ceramides for the synthesis of complex sphingolipids and the physiological performance of Arabidopsis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)769-781
Number of pages13
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • ceramide
  • desaturase
  • glucosylceramide
  • lipid unsaturation
  • lipidomics
  • long-chain base
  • sphingolipid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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