Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Neurochem. 1997 Sep;69(3):1020-30.

Ceramide selectively decreases tau levels in differentiated PC12 cells through modulation of calpain I.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 25294-0017, U.S.A.


Ceramide has been recently proposed to be a signal mediator in several important physiological processes including apoptosis, cellular growth, and differentiation. Because the microtubule-associated protein tau plays an important role in the establishment and maintenance of neuronal morphology, the effects of ceramide on tau were examined. Treatment of differentiated PC12 cells with the cell-permeable ceramide derivative N-acetylsphingosine (C2) resulted in a significant reduction in tau levels. Significant decreases in tau levels were also observed when the cells were treated with another ceramide derivative, N-hexanoylsphingosine (C6). In addition, C2 treatment increased the levels of a calpain-derived spectrin breakdown product but did not alter the levels of two cytoskeletal proteins, alpha-actin and alpha-tubulin. Because both tau and spectrin are proteolyzed in vitro by the calcium-activated cysteine protease calpain, the effects of ceramide analogues on the activity of this protease were examined. Treatment of PC12 cells with C2 enhanced calcium-stimulated proteolytic activity significantly, as revealed by monitoring the hydrolysis of the membrane-permeable calpain-selective fluorescence probe N-succinyl-L-leucyl-L-leucyl-L-valyl-L-tyrosine-7-amido-4-methylcoumarin . This activity increase was not due to a direct effect of C2 on calpains, because C2 did not alter the activities of purified calpain I or II. In addition, C2 treatment of PC12 cells resulted in a significant increase in the levels of calpain I and, to a lesser extent, the levels of calpastatin (an endogenous calpain inhibitor protein), whereas the levels of calpain II were not changed. Moreover, treatment of the cells with the synthetic calpain-specific inhibitor N-carbobenzoxy-L-leucyl-L-leucyl-L-tyrosine diazomethyl ketone blocked the C2-induced decreases in tau levels. These results indicate that tau levels are regulated in response to a physiological factor and, thus, have implications for ceramide-mediated changes in normal and pathological neuronal processes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Wiley
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk