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Autophagy. 2018;14(6):942-957. doi: 10.1080/15548627.2018.1429875. Epub 2018 Mar 11.

TP53 is required for BECN1- and ATG5-dependent cell death induced by sphingosine kinase 1 inhibition.

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a Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology , Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine , Richmond , VA USA.
c Department of Surgery and the Massey Cancer Center , Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine , Richmond , VA USA.
d Department of Pharmacology , Department of Pediatrics , Penn State University College of Medicine , Hershey , PA , USA.
b Department of Clinical Analysis, Toxicology and Food Sciences , School of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Riberião Preto , University of São Paulo , Ribeirão Preto , SP , Brazil.


The bioactive sphingolipid metabolite sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) and the enzyme that produces it, SPHK1 (sphingosine kinase 1), regulate many processes important for the etiology of cancer. It has been suggested that SPHK1 levels are regulated by the tumor suppressor protein TP53, a key regulator of cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, and macroautophagy/autophagy. However, little is still known of the relationship between TP53 and SPHK1 activity in the regulation of these processes. To explore this link, we examined the effects of inhibiting SPHK1 in wild-type and TP53 null cancer cell lines. SK1-I, an analog of sphingosine and isozyme-specific SPHK1 inhibitor, suppressed cancer cell growth and clonogenic survival in a TP53-dependent manner. It also more strongly enhanced intrinsic apoptosis in wild-type TP53 cells than in isogenic TP53 null cells. Intriguingly, SK1-I induced phosphorylation of TP53 on Ser15, which increases its transcriptional activity. Consequently, levels of TP53 downstream targets such as pro-apoptotic members of the BCL2 family, including BAX, BAK1, and BID were increased in wild-type but not in TP53 null cells. Inhibition of SPHK1 also increased the formation of autophagic and multivesicular bodies, and increased processing of LC3 and its localization within acidic compartments in a TP53-dependent manner. SK1-I also induced massive accumulation of vacuoles, enhanced autophagy, and increased cell death in an SPHK1-dependent manner that also required TP53 expression. Importantly, downregulation of the key regulators of autophagic flux, BECN1 and ATG5, dramatically decreased the cytotoxicity of SK1-I only in cells with TP53 expression. Hence, our results reveal that TP53 plays an important role in vacuole-associated cell death induced by SPHK1 inhibition in cancer cells.


Apoptosis; S1P; SK1-I; SPHK1; TP53; autophagic cell death; autophagy; p53

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