It was recently demonstrated that mutations in the human SPTLC1 gene, encoding the Lcb1p subunit of serine palmitoyltransferase (SPT), cause hereditary sensory neuropathy type I . As a member of the subfamily of pyridoxal 5'-phosphate enzymes known as the alpha-oxoamine synthases, serine palmitoyltransferase catalyzes the committed step of sphingolipid synthesis. The residues that are mutated to cause hereditary sensory neuropathy type I reside in a highly conserved region of Lcb1p that is predicted to be a catalytic domain of Lcb1p on the basis of alignments with other members of the alpha-oxoamine synthase family. We found that the corresponding mutations in the LCB1 gene of Saccharomyces cerevisiae reduce serine palmitoyltransferase activity. These mutations are dominant and decrease serine palmitoyltransferase activity by 50% when the wild-type and mutant LCB1 alleles are coexpressed. We also show that serine palmitoyltransferase is an Lcb1p small middle dotLcb2p heterodimer and that the mutated Lcb1p proteins retain their ability to interact with Lcb2p. Modeling studies suggest that serine palmitoyltransferase is likely to have a single active site that lies at the Lcb1p small middle dotLcb2p interface and that the mutations in Lcb1p reside near the lysine in Lcb2p that is expected to form the Schiff's base with the pyridoxal 5'-phosphate cofactor. Furthermore, mutations in this lysine and in a histidine residue that is also predicted to be important for pyridoxal 5'-phosphate binding to Lcb2p also dominantly inactivate SPT similar to the hereditary sensory neuropathy type 1-like mutations in Lcb1p.
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