The properties of the endolysosomal enzyme GCase (glucosylceramidase), carrying the most prevalent mutation observed in Gaucher patients, namely substitution of an asparagine residue with a serine at amino acid position 370 [N370S (Asn370→Ser) GCase], were investigated in the present study. We previously demonstrated that Sap (saposin) C, the physiological GCase activator, promotes the association of GCase with anionic phospholipid-containing membranes, reconstituting in this way the enzyme activity. In the present study, we show that, in the presence of Sap C and membranes containing high levels of anionic phospholipids, both normal and N370S GCases are able to associate with the lipid surface and to express their activity. Conversely, when the amount of anionic phospholipids in the membrane is reduced (∼20% of total lipids), Sap C is still able to promote binding and activation of the normal enzyme, but not of N370S GCase. The altered interaction of the mutated enzyme with anionic phospholipid-containing membranes and Sap C was further demonstrated in Gaucher fibroblasts by confocal microscopy, which revealed poor co-localization of N370S GCase with Sap C and lysobisphosphatidic acid, the most abundant anionic phospholipid in endolysosomes. Moreover, we found that N370S Gaucher fibroblasts accumulate endolysosomal free cholesterol, a lipid that might further interfere with the interaction of the enzyme with Sap C and lysobisphosphatidic acid-containing membranes. In summary, our results show that the N370S mutation primarily affects the interaction of GCase with its physiological activators, namely Sap C and anionic phospholipid-containing membranes. We thus propose that the poor contact between N370S GCase and its activators may be responsible for the low activity of the mutant enzyme in vivo.

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