Sphingomyelin in mixed dispersion with bile salts was hydrolysed by the solubilized sphingomyelinase of rat brain lysosomes. In parallel studies, physical properties of these dispersions were determined. The kinetic curves that described the rate of hydrolysis as a function of increasing concentrations of bile salt were multiphasic. A region of very low activity was followed by an ascending portion, a peak, a descending portion, a trough and a second ascending portion. The positions of the initiation points, peaks and troughs were found to be a function of the respective ratios of the bile salt to sphingomyelin for the detergent sodium taurodeoxycholate, but of the absolute concentration of the detergent for sodium taurocholate. Turbidity studies suggested that hydrolysis of sphingomyelin begins at a bile salt concentration that solubilizes the lipid and incorporates it into a mixed micelle with the detergent. Ultracentrifugation studies suggested that the sizes of the mixed aggregates of detergent and lipid were a function of the ratio of taurodeoxycholate to sphingomyelin, but of the absolute concentration of the bile salt, for sodium taurocholate.

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