Experiments were performed to examine the effects of subcutaneous administration of the synthetic glucocorticoid dexamethasone (100 micrograms/day per 100 g body wt.) on the lipid fluidity, lipid composition and glycosphingolipid glycosyltransferase activities of rat proximal-small-intestinal Golgi membranes. After 4 days of treatment, Golgi membranes and liposomes prepared from treated rats were found to possess a greater fluidity than their control (diluent or 0.9% NaCl) counterpart, as assessed by steady-state fluorescence-polarization techniques using three different fluorophores. Moreover, analysis of the effects of temperature on the anisotropy values of 1,6-diphenylhexa-1,3,5-triene, using Arrhenius plots, demonstrated that the mean break-point temperatures of treated preparations were 4-5 degrees C lower than those of control preparations. Changes in the fatty acyl saturation index and double-bond index of treated membranes, secondary to alterations in stearic acid, linoleic acid and arachidonic acid, at least in part, appeared to be responsible for the differences in fluidity noted between treated and control Golgi membranes. Concomitant with these fluidity and lipid-compositional alterations, treated membranes possessed higher specific activities of UDP-galactosyl-lactosylceramide galactosyltransferase and CMP-N-acetylneuraminic acid:lactosylceramide sialyltransferase than their control counterparts. Experiments utilizing benzyl alcohol, a known fluidizer, furthermore suggested that the fluidity alteration induced by dexamethasone may be responsible for the increased activity of the former, but not the latter, glycosphingolipid glycosyltransferase.

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