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J Biol Chem. 2003 Mar 28;278(13):10983-92. Epub 2003 Jan 14.

Ceramide-induced and age-associated increase in macrophage COX-2 expression is mediated through up-regulation of NF-kappa B activity.

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  • 1Nutritional Immunology Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts 02111,USA.


We have shown that the age-associated increase in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated macrophages (M phi) prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) production is because of ceramide-induced up-regulation of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 transcription that leads to increased COX-2 expression and enzyme activity. To determine the mechanism of the age-related and ceramide-dependent increase in COX-2 transcription, we investigated the role of various transcription factors involved in COX-2 gene expression. The results showed that LPS-initiated activations of both consensus and COX-2-specific NF-kappa B, but not AP-1 and CREB, were significantly higher in M phi from old mice than those from young mice. We further showed that the higher NF-kappa B activation in old M phi was because of greater I kappa B degradation in the cytoplasm and p65 translocation to the nucleus. An I kappa B phosphorylation inhibitor, Bay 11-7082, inhibited NF-kappa B activation, as well as PGE(2) production, COX activity, COX-2 protein, and mRNA expression in both young and old M phi. Similar results were obtained by blocking NF-kappa B binding activity using a NF-kappa B decoy. Furthermore, NF-kappa B inhibition resulted in significantly greater reduction in PGE(2) production and COX activity in old compared with young M phi. Addition of ceramide to the young M phi, in the presence or absence of LPS, increased NF-kappa B activation in parallel with PGE(2) production. Bay 11-7082 or NF-kappa B decoy prevented this ceramide-induced increase in NF-kappa B binding activity and PGE(2) production. These findings strongly suggest that the age-associated and ceramide-induced increase in COX-2 transcription is mediated through higher NF-kappa B activation, which is, in turn, because of a greater I kappa B degradation in old M phi.

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