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J Lipid Res. 2004 Jan;45(1):99-105. Epub 2003 Oct 1.

Ceramide-1-phosphate blocks apoptosis through inhibition of acid sphingomyelinase in macrophages.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of the Basque Country, PO Box 644, 48080 Bilbao, Spain.


It was reported previously that ceramide-1-phosphate (Cer-1-P) is mitogenic for fibroblasts (Gómez-Muñoz, A., P. A. Duffy, A. Martin, L. O'Brien, H-S. Byun, R. Bittman, and D. N. Brindley. 1995. Mol. Pharmacol. 47: 883-889; Gómez-Muñoz, A., L. M. Frago, L. Alvarez, and I. Varela-Nieto. 1997. Biochem. J. 325: 435-440). We now show that Cer-1-P prevents cell death in bone-marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) after withdrawal of macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF). Removal of M-CSF is known to induce apoptosis in these cells. Cer-1-P blocked activation of the caspase-9/caspase-3 pathway and prevented DNA fragmentation, indicating that the enhancement of cell survival was due to inhibition of apoptosis. M-CSF deprivation resulted in activation of acid sphingomyelinase (A-SMase), increased ceramide levels, and a decrease in intracellular Cer-1-P. Exogenously added Cer-1-P inhibited A-SMase in intact BMDMs at concentrations that also prevented apoptosis. Cer-1-P also inhibited A-SMase in cell homogenates, suggesting a possible direct physical interaction of Cer-1-P with the enzyme. In conclusion, these data demonstrate that Cer-1-P blocks apoptosis in BMDMs through inhibition of A-SMase, thereby reducing ceramide generation. This adds a new dimension to the understanding of the metabolic interrelationship of ceramides and Cer-1-P, and shows how altering the balance of intracellular levels of these mediators can affect cell survival.

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