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Oncogene. 2010 Dec 16;29(50):6557-68. doi: 10.1038/onc.2010.379. Epub 2010 Aug 30.

Exogenous cell-permeable C6 ceramide sensitizes multiple cancer cell lines to Doxorubicin-induced apoptosis by promoting AMPK activation and mTORC1 inhibition.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China.


New chemotherapy-enhancing strategies are needed for better cancer therapy. Previous studies suggest that exogenous cell-permeable C6 ceramide may be a useful adjunct to the anti-tumor effects of chemotherapeutic agents (such as Taxol) against multiple cancers. Here we demonstrate that exogenous cell-permeable C6 ceramide largely sensitizes multiple progressive cancer cell lines to Doxorubicin-induced cell death and apoptosis. We found for the first time that Doxorubicin induces AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activation in a reactive oxygen species-dependent manner. Activation of AMPK contributes to Doxorubicin-induced cancer cell death and apoptosis. Inhibition of AMPK by small interfering RNA knockdown or a pharmacological inhibitor reduces Doxorubicin-induced cancer cell apoptosis, whereas AMPK activator AICAR enhances it. Importantly, we found that C6 ceramide largely enhances Doxorubicin-induced activation of AMPK, which leads to mTOR complex 1 inhibition and chemo-sensitization. Our data suggest that the combination of C6 ceramide with traditional chemotherapy drugs such as Doxorubicin may have the potential to be used as a new therapeutic intervention against multiple cancers.

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