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Cell Signal. 2005 Oct;17(10):1203-17. Epub 2005 Jan 18.

Basal and induced sphingosine kinase 1 activity in A549 carcinoma cells: function in cell survival and IL-1beta and TNF-alpha induced production of inflammatory mediators.

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Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Brunnerstrasse 59, Vienna A-1235, Austria.


Sphingosine-1-phosphate, a lipid mediator produced by sphingosine kinases, regulates diverse cellular processes, ranging from cell growth and survival to effector functions, such as proinflammatory mediator synthesis. Using human A549 epithelial lung carcinoma cells as a model system, we observed transient upregulation of sphingosine kinase type 1 (SPHK1) enzyme activity upon stimulation with both TNF-alpha or IL-1beta. This transient activation of SPHK1 was found to be required for cytokine-induced COX-2 transcription and PGE2 production, since not only specific siRNA (abolishing both basal and induced SPHK1 enzyme activity), but also a dominant-negative SPHK1 mutant (suppressing induced SPHK1 activity only) both reduced COX-2 and PGE2. Furthermore, TNF-alpha- or IL-1beta-induced transcription of selected cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules (IL-6, RANTES, MCP-1, and VCAM-1) was found to require SPHK1 activation. Suppression of SPHK1 activation led to reduction of cytokine-induced IkappaBalpha phosphorylation and consequently diminished NFkappaB activity due to reduced nuclear translocation of RelA (p65), explaining the dependence of inflammatory mediator production on SPHK1 activation. Inhibition of basal SPHK1 activity by N,N-dimethylsphingosine or by downregulation of its expression using siRNA induced spontaneous apoptosis in A549 cells, an effect that can be explained through interference with constitutive NFkappaB activity in this cell type. In contrast, expression of the dominant-negative mutant did not induce apoptosis. Taken together, these findings demonstrate a role of SPHK1 activation in proinflammatory signalling and of SPHK1 basal activity in survival of A549 lung carcinoma cells.

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