Saposin (Sap) C is an essential cofactor for the lysosomal degradation of glucosylceramide (GC) by glucosylceramidase (GCase) and its functional impairment underlies a rare variant form of Gaucher disease (GD). Sap C promotes rearrangement of lipid organization in lysosomal membranes favoring substrate accessibility to GCase. It is characterized by six invariantly conserved cysteine residues involved in three intramolecular disulfide bonds, which make the protein remarkably stable to acid environment and degradation. Five different mutations (i.e. p.C315S, p.342_348FDKMCSKdel, p.L349P, p.C382G and p.C382F) have been identified to underlie Sap C deficiency. The molecular mechanism by which these mutations affect Sap C function, however, has not been delineated in detail. Here, we characterized biochemically and functionally four of these gene lesions. We show that all Sap C mutants are efficiently produced, and exhibit lipid-binding properties, modulatory behavior on GCase activity and subcellular localization comparable with those of the wild-type protein. We then delineated the structural rearrangement of these mutants, documenting that most proteins assume diverse aberrant disulfide bridge arrangements, which result in a substantial diminished half-life, and rapid degradation via autophagy. These findings further document the paramount importance of disulfide bridges in the stability of Sap C and provide evidence that accelerated degradation of the Sap C mutants is the underlying pathogenetic mechanism of Sap C deficiency.
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