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J Biol Chem. 1991 Dec 5;266(34):22968-74.

Modulation of renal epithelial cell growth by glucosylceramide. Association with protein kinase C, sphingosine, and diacylglycerol.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor 48109.


Two independent approaches were employed to explore the potential role of endogenous glucosylceramide or a closely related glucosphingolipid in mediating the cellular proliferation of Madin-Darby canine kidney cells. First, cultured cells were depleted of glucosphingolipids by exposure to a glucosylceramide synthase inhibitor, D-threo-1-phenyl-2-decanoylamino-3-morpholino-1-propanol. This agent markedly inhibited cell growth and DNA synthesis in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. Second, cells were grown in the presence of conduritol B epoxide, an inhibitor of glucosylceramide beta-D-glucosidase. Exposure of cells to this inhibitor resulted in the time-dependent accumulation of glucosylceramide with a corresponding increase in cellular proliferation. Alterations in protein kinase C activity were evaluated as a potential mechanism for these effects on growth. Both membrane- and cytosol-associated protein kinase C (PKC) activity declined under conditions of glucosylceramide synthase inhibition and increased under conditions of beta-glucosidase inhibition. The changes in PKC activity were evident after DEAE-cellulose purification. Diacylglycerol levels increased in response to both glucosylceramide synthase and beta-glucosidase inhibition. Ceramide and sphingosine levels changed only in the presence of D-threo-1-phenyl-2-decanoylamino-3-morpholino-1-propanol, increasing due to lack of conversion to glucosylceramide. However, the elevation in endogenous sphingosine was probably insufficient to account for the decrease in PKC, considering the high level of diacylglycerol in the cells. These data demonstrate an association between glucosylceramide levels, PKC activity, and cell growth.

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