Ceramidases (CDases) are currently classified into three categories (acid, neutral and alkaline) based on their optimal pHs and primary structures. Here, we report the first exception to this rule. We cloned the CDase cDNA, consisting of 2142 nucleotides encoding 714 amino-acid residues, from the slime mould, Dictyostelium discoideum. The putative amino-acid sequence indicates 32–42% identity with various neutral CDases, but does not show any similarity to the acid and alkaline CDases, indicating the enzyme should be classified as a neutral CDase. However, overexpression of the cDNA in D. discoideum resulted in increased CDase activity at an acidic, but not a neutral pH range. Knockout of the gene in slime mould eliminated CDase activity at acidic pH. The recombinant enzyme expressed in the slime mould was purified and then characterized. Consequently, the purified CDase was found to exhibit the maximal activity at approx. pH 3.0. The singular pH dependency of slime mould CDase is not derived from the specific post-translational modification in the slime mould, because the enzyme showed an acidic pH optimum even when expressed in Chinese hamster ovary cells, whereas rat neutral-CDase exhibited a neutral pH optimum when expressed in slime mould.

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