Ceramide induces a loss in cytosolic peroxide levels in mononuclear cells
Phillips, Darren C.
Griffiths, Helen R.
Ceramide (a sphingolipid) and reactive oxygen species are each partly responsible for intracellular signal transduction in response to a variety of agents. It has been reported that ceramide and reactive oxygen species are intimately linked and show reciprocal regulation [Liu, Andreieu-Abadie, Levade, Zhang, Obeid and Hannun (1998) J. Biol. Chem. 273, 11313-11320]. Utilizing synthetic, short-chain ceramide to mimic the cellular responses to fluctuations in natural endogenous ceramide formation or using stimulation of CD95 to induce ceramide formation, we found that the principal redox-altering property of ceramide is to lower the [peroxide](cyt) (cytosolic peroxide concentration). Apoptosis of Jurkat T-cells, primary resting and phytohaemagglutinin-activated human peripheral blood T-lymphocytes was preceded by a loss in [peroxide](cyt), as measured by the peroxide-sensitive probe 2',7'-dichlorofluorescein diacetate (also reflected in a lower rate of superoxide dismutase-inhibitable cytochrome c reduction), and this was not associated with a loss of membrane integrity. Where growth arrest of U937 monocytes was observed without a loss of membrane integrity, the decrease in [peroxide](cyt) was of a lower magnitude when compared with that preceding the onset of apoptosis in T-cells. Furthermore, decreasing the cytosolic peroxide level in U937 monocytes before the application of synthetic ceramide by pretreatment with either of the antioxidants N -acetyl cysteine or glutathione conferred apoptosis. However, N -acetyl cysteine or glutathione did not affect the kinetics or magnitude of ceramide-induced apoptosis of Jurkat T-cells. Therefore the primary redox effect of cellular ceramide accumulation is to lower the [peroxide](cyt) of both primary and immortalized cells, the magnitude of which dictates the cellular response.