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Exp Cell Res. 1999 Aug 1;250(2):329-38.

Increased tyrosine kinase activity but not calcium mobilization is required for ceramide-induced apoptosis.

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University Department of Surgery, Level 7, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol, BS2 8 HW, England, UK.


The insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) are capable of blocking apoptosis in many cell lines in vitro, potentially via activation of the IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR). We have previously shown that lower doses of the sphingolipid analogue C2-ceramide are required to induce apoptosis in IGF-IR-minus vs -positive murine fibroblasts, indicating a protective feedback loop in the latter and corroborating evidence that the IGF-IR functions as a survival receptor [1, 2]. Since, unexpectedly, C2-ceramide was capable of activating MAP kinase, phosphorylating the IGF-I receptor, and promoting entry into the G2 phase of the cell cycle, we wished to further determine the mechanisms involved. Using IGF-IR-positive fibroblasts we demonstrate here for the first time that ceramide is capable of activating a tyrosine kinase which acts at the level of the IGF-IR to increase cell death. We also demonstrate that in the presence of sodium orthovanadate, ceramide-induced death is increased, and the phosphorylation of a 75-kDa protein which associates with the IGF-I receptor is enhanced. Although the identity of this protein is not known, we speculate that it may link into the Raf kinase signaling pathway; indeed, inhibitors of MEKK reduce ceramide-induced apoptosis, thus substantiating this theory [1, 2]. Although calcium mobilization did cause apoptosis in these cells, it was not required as a mediator of ceramide-induced apoptosis. Finally, the potential hydrolysis of ceramide to sphingosine-1-phosphate was not the cause of increased MAP kinase activation, substantiating the role of an IGF-IR interacting tyrosine kinase, which may be involved in apoptosis.

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