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

Bacterial ceramides and sphingophospholipids induce apoptosis of human leukaemic cells.

The genus Sphingobacterium, whose members are Gram-negative non-fermentative rods, possesses ceramides and related sphingophospholipids (SPLs) with isoheptadecasphinganine and 2-hydroxy or non-hydroxy isopentadecanoic acid. This paper reports evidence that ceramides isolated from Sphingobacterium spiritivorum ATCC 33861 induce endonucleolytic DNA cleavage in human myeloid leukaemia HL-60 cells in vitro, which is the primary characteristic biochemical marker for apoptosis or programmed cell death. Ceramides and SPLs also induced DNA fragmentation and caspase-3 activation, followed by changes in morphology, such as alterations in the size of nuclei and cells, and cell cycle shortening. Apoptotic activity correlated with the ceramide structure. Ceramide with a 2-hydroxy fatty acid showed stronger apoptotic activity than ceramide with a non-hydroxy fatty acid. Furthermore, the major five SPLs (ceramide phosphorylethanolamine-1 and -2, ceramide phosphorylinositol-1 and -2, and ceramide phosphorylmannose-1) showed apoptosis-inducing activity in HL-60 cells, indicating that the ceramide moiety of the SPLs plays a crucial role as the intracellular second messenger but that their hydrophilicity is less important in this regard. The hydrophilic part of SPLs may play a role in other cellular response systems. The involvement of Fas antigen was implicated in the apoptotic event since Fas antigen expression was observed after 3 or 4 h stimulation of HL-60 cells with bacterial ceramides. However, a time-course study for caspase-3 activation indicated maximal activity at 1 h after stimulation with bacterial ceramides, suggesting that two (or possibly more) mechanisms of signal transduction, Fas-dependent and Fas-independent, may be involved. Fas antigen expression and caspase-3 activation by five kinds of SPLs were observed after 3 or 4 h. These results indicate that there is a difference in the response of HL-60 cells to bacterial ceramides and SPLs.[1]


  1. Bacterial ceramides and sphingophospholipids induce apoptosis of human leukaemic cells. Minamino, M., Sakaguchi, I., Naka, T., Ikeda, N., Kato, Y., Tomiyasu, I., Yano, I., Kobayashi, K. Microbiology (Reading, Engl.) (2003) [Pubmed]
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