by Ludovic D’Auria, Cory Reiter, Emma Ward, Ana Lis Moyano, Michael S. Marshall, Duc Nguyen, Giuseppe Scesa, Zane Hauck, Richard van Breemen, Maria I. Givogri, Ernesto R. Bongarzone
In prior studies, our laboratory showed that psychosine accumulates and disrupts lipid rafts in brain membranes of Krabbe’s disease. A model of lipid raft disruption helped explaining psychosine’s effects on several signaling pathways important for oligodendrocyte survival and differentiation but provided more limited insight in how this sphingolipid caused demyelination. Here, we have studied how this cationic inverted coned lipid affects the fluidity, stability and structure of myelin and plasma membranes. Using a combination of cutting-edge imaging techniques in non-myelinating (red blood cell), and myelinating (oligodendrocyte) cell models, we show that psychosine is sufficient to disrupt sphingomyelin-enriched domains, increases the rigidity of localized areas in the plasma membrane, and promotes the shedding of membranous microvesicles. The same physicochemical and structural changes were measured in myelin membranes purified from the mutant mouse Twitcher, a model for Krabbe’s disease. Areas of higher rigidity were measured in Twitcher myelin and correlated with higher levels of psychosine and of myelin microvesiculation. These results expand our previous analyses and support, for the first time a pathogenic mechanism where psychosine’s toxicity in Krabbe disease involves deregulation of cell signaling not only by disruption of membrane rafts, but also by direct local destabilization and fragmentation of the membrane through microvesiculation. This model of membrane disruption may be fundamental to introduce focal weak points in the myelin sheath, and consequent diffuse demyelination in this leukodystrophy, with possible commonality to other demyelinating disorders.