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FASEB J. 2003 Dec;17(15):2339-41. Epub 2003 Oct 16.

Resveratrol induces growth inhibition and apoptosis in metastatic breast cancer cells via de novo ceramide signaling.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, San Paolo University Hospital, School of Medicine, University of Milan, 20142 Milan, Italy.


Resveratrol (3,4',5-trans-trihydroxystilbene), a phytoalexin present in grapes and red wine, is emerging as a natural compound with potential anticancer properties. Here we show that resveratrol can induce growth inhibition and apoptosis in MDA-MB-231, a highly invasive and metastatic breast cancer cell line, in concomitance with a dramatic endogenous increase of growth inhibitory/proapoptotic ceramide. We found that accumulation of ceramide derives from both de novo ceramide synthesis and sphingomyelin hydrolysis. More specifically we demonstrated that ceramide accumulation induced by resveratrol can be traced to the activation of serine palmitoyltransferase (SPT), the key enzyme of de novo ceramide biosynthetic pathway, and neutral sphingomyelinase (nSMase), a main enzyme involved in the sphingomyelin/ceramide pathway. However, by using specific inhibitors of SPT, myriocin and L-cycloserine, and nSMase, gluthatione and manumycin, we found that only the SPT inhibitors could counteract the biological effects induced by resveratrol. Thus, resveratrol seems to exert its growth inhibitory/apoptotic effect on the metastatic breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 by activating the de novo ceramide synthesis pathway.

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