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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1990 Jan 23;1051(1):37-45.

Characteristics of the growth inhibition and cytotoxicity of long-chain (sphingoid) bases for Chinese hamster ovary cells: evidence for an involvement of protein kinase C.

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Department of Biochemistry, Emory University, Atlanta, GA.


Long-chain bases are potent inhibitors of protein kinase C and cellular processes mediated by this enzyme. However, when added to cells they usually cause some degree of growth inhibition and cytotoxicity and it is unclear whether this reflects inhibition of protein kinase C or nonspecific detergent effects of these amphipathic compounds. This study examined the effects of sphinganine on Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells to gain more insight into these possibilities. Sphinganine concentrations between 0.75 and 4 microM resulted in a combination of growth inhibition and cytotoxicity that correlated with protein kinase C inhibition by five criteria: (1) the effective concentrations were comparable to those for protein kinase C inhibition in vitro and in other intact cells; (2) the structural specificity for the long-chain base moiety paralleled the potency of protein kinase C inhibition; (3) sphinganine blocked changes in protein phosphorylation patterns that occurred in response to phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (and vice versa); whereas (4) a mutant cell line that exhibited increased resistance to sphinganine cytotoxicity lacked both phorbol ester- and sphinganine-induced phosphorylation changes and differed somewhat in the behavior of protein kinase C assayed in vitro; and (5) sphinganine did not appear to be acting as a detergent (except at higher concentrations) nor as a lysosomotrophic agent. While the complexity of this cellular behavior mandates caution in interpreting these results, they suggest that the cytotoxicity and growth inhibition may be a consequence of protein kinase C inhibition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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