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J Invest Dermatol. 2010 Oct;130(10):2472-80. doi: 10.1038/jid.2010.153. Epub 2010 Jun 3.

Hydrolytic pathway protects against ceramide-induced apoptosis in keratinocytes exposed to UVB.

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Department of Dermatology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.


Although ceramides (Cers) are key constituents of the epidermal permeability barrier, they also function as apoptogenic signals for UVB irradiation-induced apoptosis in epidermal keratinocytes. As epidermis is continuously exposed to UV irradiation, we hypothesized that Cer hydrolysis protects keratinocytes from UVB-induced apoptosis by attenuating Cer levels. Both low-dose UVB (L-UVB) (< 35 mJ cm(-2)) and high-dose UVB (H-UVB) (> or = 45 mJ cm(-2)) irradiation inhibited DNA synthesis in cultured human keratinocytes, but apoptosis occurred only after H-UVB. Whereas Cer production increased after both L- and H-UVB, it normalized only in L-UVB-exposed keratinocytes, but remained elevated after H-UVB. Both acidic ceramidase (aCDase) and neutral ceramidase (nCDase) activities declined after L- and H-UVB, but returned to normal only in L-UVB cells, with decreased CDase activities or mRNA or protein levels being sustained in H-UVB cells. Inhibition of CDase using either a CDase inhibitor, N-oleoylethanolamine, or small interfering RNA (siRNA) (either to a- and/or n-CDase(s)) sensitized keratinocytes to L-UVB-induced apoptosis in parallel with further Cer accumulation. Blockade of sphingosine kinase 1 (SPHK1) (but not SPHK2) by siRNA also increased apoptosis in L-UVB keratinocytes, revealing that conversion of sphingosine to sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) further protects keratinocytes from UVB-induced cell death. Thus, Cer → sphingosine → S1Pmetabolic conversion protects against UVB-induced, Cer-mediated apoptosis in keratinocytes, but excessive UVB overwhelms this mechanism, thereby leading to keratinocyte apoptosis.

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