Envenomation by the brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa) may cause local dermonecrosis and, rarely, coagulopathies, kidney failure and death. A venom phospholipase, SMaseD (sphingomyelinase D), is responsible for the pathological manifestations of envenomation. Recently, the recombinant SMaseD from Loxosceles laeta was demonstrated to hydrolyse LPC (lysophosphatidylcholine) to produce LPA (lysophosphatidic acid) and choline. Therefore activation of LPA signalling pathways may be involved in some manifestations of Loxosceles envenomation. To begin investigating this idea, we cloned a full-length cDNA encoding L. reclusa SMaseD. The 305 amino acid sequence of the L. reclusa enzyme is 87, 85 and 60% identical with those of L. arizonica, L. intermedia and L. laeta respectively. The recombinant enzyme expressed in bacteria had broad substrate specificity. The lysophospholipids LPC, LPI (18:1-1-oleyol lysophosphatidylinositol), LPS, LPG (18:1-1-oleoyl-lysophosphatidylglycerol), LBPA (18:1-1-oleoyl-lysobisphosphatidic acid) (all with various acyl chains), lyso-platelet-activating factor (C16:0), cyclic phosphatidic acid and sphingomyelin were hydrolysed, whereas sphingosylphosphorylcholine, PC (phosphatidylcholine; C22:6, C20:4 and C6:0), oxidized PCs and PAF (platelet-activating factor; C16:0) were not hydrolysed. The PAF analogue, edelfosine, inhibited enzyme activity. Recombinant enzyme plus LPC (C18:1) induced the migration of A2058 melanoma cells, and this activity was blocked by the LPA receptor antagonist, VPC32183. The recombinant spider enzyme was haemolytic, but this activity was absent from catalytically inactive H37N (His37→Asn) and H73N mutants. Our results demonstrate that Loxosceles phospholipase D hydrolyses a wider range of lysophospholipids than previously supposed, and thus the term ‘SMaseD’ is too limited in describing this enzyme.

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