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

Glucosylceramide synthase does not attenuate the ceramide pool accumulating during apoptosis induced by CD95 or anti-cancer regimens.

Ceramide (Cer) accumulating during the execution phase of apoptosis is generated from plasma membrane sphingomyelin (SM), which gains access to a sphingomyelinase due to phospholipid scrambling (Tepper, A. D., Ruurs, P., Wiedmer, T., Sims, P., Borst, J., and van Blitterswijk, W. J. (2000) J. Cell. Biol. 150, 155-164). To evaluate the functional significance of this Cer pool, we aimed to convert it to glucosylceramide (GlcCer), by constitutive overexpression of glucosylceramide synthase (GCS). Jurkat cells, retrovirally transduced with GCS cDNA, showed a 10-12-fold increase in GCS activity in vitro and a 7-fold elevated basal GlcCer level in vivo. However, Cer accumulating during apoptosis induced by ligation of the death receptor CD95, treatment with the anti-cancer drug etoposide, or exposure to gamma-radiation was not glycosylated by GCS. Likewise, Cer liberated at the plasma membrane by bacterial SMase was not converted by the enzyme. Thus, GCS, located at the Golgi, is topologically segregated from Cer produced in the plasma membrane. In contrast, de novo synthesized Cer as well as an exogenously supplied cell-permeable Cer analog were efficiently glycosylated, apparently due to different Cer topology and distinct physicochemical behavior of the synthetic Cer species, respectively. Exogenous cell-permeable Cer species, despite their conversion by GCS, effectively induced apoptosis. We also observed that GCS activity is down-regulated in cells undergoing apoptosis. In conclusion, GCS can convert de novo synthesized Cer but not SM-derived Cer, and, therefore, the ability of GCS overexpression to protect cells from possible detrimental effects of Cer accumulation is limited.[1]


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