2017 Volume 66 Issue 3 Pages 285-295
Halocynthia aurantium, an edible ascidian species belonging to Urochordata, was subjected to structural characterization of acidic glycosphingolipids to investigate these molecules in ascidians: sulfatide from Ciona intestinalis and the glucuronic acid-containing acidic glycosphingolipid from H. roretzi. Acidic glycosphingolipids containing three or five sugars were isolated from soft parts of the ascidian H. aurantium by chloroform–methanol extraction, mild-alkaline hydrolysis, precipitation with cold acetone, and subsequent column chromatography using a DEAE-Sephadex A-25 column, a Florisil column, and an Iatrobead column. The structures of these glycosphingolipids were determined by methylation studies, sugar analysis, fatty acid analysis, sphingoid analysis, mass spectrometry, and proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. A novel glucuronic acid-containing glycosphingolipid having a rhamnose residue was identified as Rhaα1-3GlcNAcβ1-3Galβ1-4(Fucα1-3)GlcAβ1-Cer (UGL-2). This novel structure is particularly unusual given that it contains both a rhamnose residue and a reducing terminal glucuronic acid residue within a single molecule. Rhamnose is a characteristic sugar, which is a component of cell wall pectin in plants and exopolysaccharides in bacteria. Ascidians acquired the cellulose synthase gene via lateral gene transfer, and therefore, it can be speculated that they also acquired the rhamnosyltransferase gene in the same manner. We also detected Galβ1-4(Fucα1-3)GlcAβ1-Cer (UGL-1), which was already identified in another ascidian, H. roretzi.