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J Biochem. 2006 Feb;139(2):255-62.

Apoptosis occurs via the ceramide recycling pathway in human HaCaT keratinocytes.

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  • 1Department of Biomembrane and Biofunctional Chemistry, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0812, Japan.


Keratinocytes contain abundant ceramides compared to other cells. However, studies on these cells have mainly focused on the barrier function of ceramide, while their other roles, such as those in apoptosis or cell cycle arrest, have not been well addressed. In this study, we investigated the apoptosis-inducing effect of exogenously added cell-permeable ceramides in HaCaT keratinocytes. We found that N-hexanoyl sphingosine (C6-ceramide) induced apoptosis efficiently through the accumulation of long chain ceramides. On the other hand, N-acetyl sphingosine (C2-ceramide) induced neither apoptosis nor accumulation of long chain ceramides. We also found that exogenously added C6-ceramide was hydrolyzed to sphingosine and then reacylated in long chain ceramides (ceramide recycling pathway), but that C2-ceramide was not hydrolyzed and thus not recycled. We propose that this is the basis for the chain length-specific heterogeneity observed in ceramide-induced apoptosis in these cells. These results also imply that keratinocytes utilize exogenous sphingolipids or ceramides to coordinate their own ceramide compositions.

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