Previous studies have shown that fatty acid ethyl ester synthase (FAEES) which catalyzes the formation of ethyl or 2-chloroethyl esters of long-chain fatty acids is localized in the microsomal fraction of rat liver. A recent study suggests that rat adipose tissue FAEES is similar to rat liver microsomal carboxylesterase (CE) [Tsujita and Okuda (1992) J. Biol. Chem. 267, 23489-23494]. Since the interrelationships among FAEES, 2-chloroethyl ester synthase (FACEES), and cholesterol esterase (ChE) are also not clear at present, we purified and characterized FAEES and FACEES from rat hepatic microsomes and studied their functional and structural relationships with CE and ChE. The results of these studies showed that CE, FAEES, and FACEES activities copurified during each step of purification. Although gel- filtration column chromatography of DEAE-Sephacel purified microsomal protein resolved into two peaks with an estimated molecular weight of 180 (major) and 60 kDa (minor), this paper describes characterization of only the 180 kDa protein. CE, FAEES, and FACEES activities associated with homogeneous 180 kDa protein could be inhibited by a β-esterase inhibitor (diisopropyl fluorophosphate) in an identical manner. This protein, however, showed only the hydrolytic activity, but not the synthetic activity for cholesterol oleate, indicating that it is distinct from ChE. The purified protein could be immunoprecipitated with the antibodies raised against rat adipose tissue FAEES, but not with antibodies against rat pancreatic ChE, demonstrating again that the purified protein is distinct from ChE. A single band corresponding to 60 kDa upon SDS-PAGE, under reduced denaturing conditions, indicates that the purified protein is a trimer. N-terminal amino acid sequence of the first 27 residues were identical to that of rat hepatic microsomal CE [Robbi et al. (1990) Biochem. J., 451-458] which suggests structural similarity of the purified protein with rat hepatic microsomal CE. Therefore, the functional and structural properties of the purified protein demonstrate that FAEES, FACEES, as well as CE activities are expressed by the same protein, purified in this study, which exists as a trimer (180 kDa) and is involved in biosynthesis of long-chain fatty acid esters of xenobiotic alcohols. Further studies on purification and characterization of the enzymes responsible for the esterification of xenobiotic alcohols with endogenous fatty acids from various target organs need to be conducted to determine their functional and structural interrelationships. Inhibition and induction studies of these enzyme(s) and the extent of observed toxicity could be important in understanding their role in etiology of chronic diseases induced by alcohol abuse.
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