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

Ceramide activates the stress-activated protein kinases.

Tumor necrosis factor alpha ( TNF alpha) activates the stress-activated protein kinases (SAPKs, also known as Jun nuclear kinases or JNKs) resulting in the stimulation of AP-1-dependent gene transcription and induces the translocation of NF kappa B to the nucleus resulting in the stimulation of NF kappa B-dependent gene transcription. A potential second messenger for these signaling pathways is ceramide, which is generated when TNF alpha activates sphingomyelinases. We show that treatment of HL-60 human promyelocytic cells with exogenous sphingomyelinase leads to rapid stimulation of JNK/ SAPK activity, an effect not mimicked by treatment with phospholipase A2, C, or D. Further, JNK/ SAPK activity is stimulated 2.7- and 2.8-fold, respectively, in cells exposed to C2-ceramide (5 microM) or TNF alpha (10 ng/ml). The prolonged stimulation of this kinase activity by C2-ceramide is similar to that previously reported for TNF alpha. In contrast, the related mitogen-activated protein kinases ERK1 and ERK2 are weakly stimulated following TNF alpha treatment (1.5-fold) and are inhibited by C2-ceramide treatment. TNF alpha also potently stimulates NF-kappa B DNA binding activity and transcriptional activity, but these effects are not mimicked by addition of C2-ceramide or sphingomyelinase to intact cells. Furthermore, TNF alpha, sphingomyelinase, and C2-ceramide induce c-jun, a gene that is stimulated by the ATF-2 and c-Jun transcription factors. These data suggest that ceramide may act as a second messenger for a subset of TNF alpha's biochemical and biological effects.[1]


  1. Ceramide activates the stress-activated protein kinases. Westwick, J.K., Bielawska, A.E., Dbaibo, G., Hannun, Y.A., Brenner, D.A. J. Biol. Chem. (1995) [Pubmed]
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