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Cell Death Differ. 2000 Mar;7(3):262-71.

Ceramide-induced cell death is independent of the Fas/Fas ligand pathway and is prevented by Nur77 overexpression in A20 B cells.

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Departamento de Microbiologia e Imunologia, Centro de Citologia Experimental, Universidade do Porto, 4100 Porto, Portugal.


The role of ceramide in triggering apoptosis is still a matter of debate. While in some experimental systems, ceramide was shown to mediate Fas-induced cell death, in other instances it was claimed to induce the expression of Fas ligand (FasL), killing cells in a caspase-dependent fashion. We found that, in mature A20 B cells, ceramide-induced apoptosis is independent of the caspase pathway, since we observed no ICE-like, CPP32-like and Mch2 activities and no PARP proteolysis. Moreover, we were unable to protect these cells from ceramide-induced apoptosis using caspase inhibitors, while they blocked Fas-induced apoptosis and no FasL induction could be detected following ceramide treatment. These results suggest that ceramide does not induce apoptosis through the Fas/FasL pathway. We also found that overexpression of Nur77, a zinc-finger transcription factor described to upregulate FasL, antagonizes ceramide-induced apoptosis, but not Fas-induced apoptosis. This further supports the hypothesis that Fas and ceramide death pathways are independent in A20 cells. Ceramide-induced cell death was associated with increased c-myc, p53, Bax and p27kip1 levels; in contrast, cells transfected with Nur77 (A20Nur77), resistant to ceramide-induced apoptosis, showed a marked downregulation of p53 after ceramide treatment, with neither Bax nor p27kip1 induction. In conclusion, our results suggest that, in the A20 B cell line, Fas and ceramide trigger two distinct pathways and that Nur77 overexpression confers protection against ceramide-mediated apoptosis which correlates with inhibition of p53, Bax and p27kip1 induction.

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