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J Biol Chem. 2004 Apr 30;279(18):18256-61. Epub 2004 Feb 6.

Cytoprotective effect of glucosylceramide synthase inhibition against daunorubicin-induced apoptosis in human leukemic cell lines.

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  • 1INSERM U563-Centre de Physiopathologie Toulouse Purpan, Institut Claudius Régaud, Toulouse 31052, France.


Several studies have shown that ceramide (CER) glucosylation contributes to drug resistance in multidrug-resistant cells and that inhibition of glucosylceramide synthase sensitizes cells to various drug treatments. However, the role of glucosylceramide synthase has not been studied in drug-sensitive cancer cells. We have demonstrated previously that the anthracycline daunorubicin (DNR) rapidly induces interphasic apoptosis through neutral sphingomyelinase-mediated CER generation in human leukemic cell lines. We now report that inhibition of glucosylceramide synthase using d,l-threo-1-phenyl-2-decanoylamino-3-morpholino-1-propanol (PDMP) or 1-phenyl-2-palmitoylamino-3-morpholino-1-propanol (PPMP) protected U937 and HL-60 cells from DNR-induced apoptosis. Moreover, blocking CER glucosylation did not lead to increased CER levels but to increased CER galactosylation. We also observed that pretreating cells with galactosylceramide (GalCER) significantly inhibited DNR-induced apoptosis. Finally, we show that GalCER-enriched lymphoblast cells (Krabbe's disease) were significantly more resistant to DNR- and cytosine arabinoside-induced apoptosis as compared with normal lymphoblasts, whereas glucosylceramide-enriched cells (Gaucher's disease) were more sensitive. In conclusion, this study suggests that sphingomyelin-derived CER in itself is not a second messenger but rather a precursor of both an apoptosis second messenger (GD3) and an apoptosis "protector" (GalCER).

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