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Cell Death Dis. 2011 Jan 27;2:e117. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2010.96.

C6-ceramide synergistically potentiates the anti-tumor effects of histone deacetylase inhibitors via AKT dephosphorylation and α-tubulin hyperacetylation both in vitro and in vivo.

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Department of Physiology, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing, PR China.


Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACIs) have shown promising anti-tumor effects for a variety of malignancies, however, many tumors are reportedly resistant to them. In this study, we made a novel discovery that co-administration of HDACIs (Trichostatin A (TSA) and others) and exogenous cell-permeable short-chain ceramide (C6) results in striking increase in cancer cell death and apoptosis in multiple cancer cells. These events are associated with perturbations in diverse cell signaling pathways, including inactivation of Akt/mTOR and increase in α-tubulin acetylation (both in vivo and in vitro). TSA interacts in a highly synergistic manner with C6-ceramide to disrupt HDAC6/protein phosphatase 1 (PP1)/tubulin complex, to induce α-tubulin hyperacetylation, and to release and activate PP1, which then leads to AKT dephosphorylation and eventually causes cancer cell death. Interestingly, TSA itself results in short-term ceramide accumulation, which as a result of metabolic (glycosylation) removal, does not result in evident increase of cancer cell death. However, adding C6-ceramide led to a very pronounced increase in ceramide level and marked increase in cell death. Importantly, the effective synergistic anti-tumor activity of TSA plus C6-ceramide is also seen in in vivo mice xenograft pancreatic and ovarian cancer models, indicating that this regimen (HDACI plus C6-ceramide) may represent a more effective form of therapy against pancreatic and ovarian carcinoma.

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