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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Apr;1821(4):684-93. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2012.01.012. Epub 2012 Jan 28.

Ordering of ceramide formation and caspase-9 activation in CD95L-induced Jurkat leukemia T cell apoptosis.

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INSERM UMR1037, Centre de Recherches en Cancérologie de Toulouse, Equipe 4, BP84225, 31432 Toulouse Cedex 4, France.


Ceramide, a biologically active sphingolipid in cell death signaling, accumulates upon CD95L treatment, concomitantly to apoptosis induction in Jurkat leukemia T cells. Herein, we show that ceramide did not increase in caspase-8 and -10-doubly deficient Jurkat cells in response to CD95L, indicating that apical caspases are essential for CD95L-triggered ceramide formation. Jurkat cells are typically defined as type 2 cells, which require the activation of the mitochondrial pathway for efficient apoptosis induction in response to CD95L. Caspase-9-deficient Jurkat cells significantly resisted CD95L-induced apoptosis, despite ceramide accumulation. Knock-down of sphingomyelin synthase 1, which metabolizes ceramide to sphingomyelin, enhanced (i) CD95L-triggered ceramide production, (ii) cytochrome c release from the mitochondria and (iii) caspase-9 activation. Exogenous ceramide-induced caspase-3 activation and apoptosis were impaired in caspase-9-deficient Jurkat cells. Conversely, caspase-9 re-expression in caspase-9-deficient Jurkat cells restored caspase-3 activation and apoptosis upon exogenous ceramide treatment. Collectively, our data provide genetic evidence that CD95L-triggered endogenous ceramide increase in Jurkat leukemia T cells (i) is not a mere consequence of cell death and occurs mainly in a caspase-9-independent manner, (ii) is likely involved in the pro-apoptotic mitochondrial pathway leading to caspase-9 activation.

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