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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Increase of ceramide and induction of mixed apoptosis/necrosis by N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)- retinamide in neuroblastoma cell lines.

BACKGROUND: The synthetic retinoid N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide (4-HPR or fenretinide) is toxic to myeloid leukemia and cervical carcinoma cell lines, probably in part due to its ability to increase levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). We have studied the effects of 4-HPR on neuroblastoma cell lines. Since neuroblastomas commonly relapse in bone marrow, a hypoxic tissue compartment, and many chemotherapeutic agents are antagonized by hypoxia, our purpose was to study in these cell lines several factors influencing 4-HPR-induced cytotoxicity, including induced levels of ROS, effects of physiologic hypoxia and antioxidants, levels of ceramide, and the mechanism of cell death. METHODS: ROS generation was measured by carboxydichlorofluorescein diacetate fluoresence. Ceramide was quantified by radiolabeling and thin-layer chromatography. Immunoblotting was used to assess p53 protein levels. Apoptosis (programmed cell death) and necrosis were analyzed by nuclear morphology and internucleosomal DNA fragmentation patterns. Cytotoxicity was measured by a fluorescence-based assay employing digital imaging microscopy in the presence or absence of the pancaspase enzyme inhibitor BOC-d-fmk. Statistical tests were two-sided. RESULTS/CONCLUSIONS: In addition to increasing ROS, 4-HPR (2.5-10 microM) statistically significantly increased the level of intracellular ceramide (up to approximately 10-fold; P<.001) in a dose-dependent manner in two neuroblastoma cell lines, one of which is highly resistant to alkylating agents and to etoposide. Cell death induced by 4-HPR was reduced but not abrogated by hypoxia in the presence or absence of an antioxidant, N-acetyl-L-cysteine. Expression of p53 protein was not affected by 4-HPR. Furthermore, the pan-caspase enzyme inhibitor BOC-d-fmk prevented apoptosis, but not necrosis, and only partially decreased cytotoxicity induced by 4-HPR, indicating that 4-HPR induced both apoptosis and necrosis in neuroblastoma cells. IMPLICATIONS: 4-HPR may form the basis for a novel, p53-independent chemotherapy that operates through increased intracellular levels of ceramide and that retains cytotoxicity under reduced oxygen conditions.[1]


  1. Increase of ceramide and induction of mixed apoptosis/necrosis by N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)- retinamide in neuroblastoma cell lines. Maurer, B.J., Metelitsa, L.S., Seeger, R.C., Cabot, M.C., Reynolds, C.P. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. (1999) [Pubmed]
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