Plasmalogens in the retina: In situ hybridization of dihydroxyacetone phosphate acyltransferase (DHAP-AT) – the first enzyme involved in their biosynthesis – and comparative study of retinal and retinal pigment epithelial lipid composition

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Plasmalogens (Pls) are phospholipids containing a vinyl-ether bond in the sn-1 position of the glycerol backbone. The physiological role of Pls is still enigmatic, especially within the eye where their deficiency leads to developmental abnormalities. In order to learn more about the functions of Pls in the posterior eye, we evaluated retinal Pl content as well as the expression of the first enzyme involved in Pls biosynthesis, dihydroxyacetone phosphate acyltransferase (DHAP-AT) in the retina. In situ hybridization of DHAP-AT mRNA was performed on rat eye sections. The Pl contents of calf retina and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) samples were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography, thin-layer chromatography, and gas chromatography. DHAP-AT was highly expressed in the inner segment of photoreceptors and in the RPE, suggesting two distinct sites for Pl biosynthesis. Plasmenyl-ethanolamine was the prominent class of Pls in both neural retina and RPE (28–29% of the total phospho-ethanolamine-glycerides). According to the nature of the alkenyl residue linked to the sn-1 position of Pls, the most striking finding was the greater proportion of octadecanal-aldehyde in the sn-1 position of plasmenyl-ethanolamine of the neural retina compared to all the other classes of Pls in the neural retina and the RPE. These findings might be relevant to the biological functions of Pls against oxidative stress and in the formation of lipid rafts.

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