Ceramide stimulates epidermal growth factor receptor phosphorylation in A431 human epidermoid carcinoma cells: Evidence that ceramide may mediate sphingosine action
Epidermal Growth Factor
Recent studies suggest the existence of a signal transduction pathway involving sphingomyelin and derivatives (Kolesnick, R. N. (1989) J. Biol. Chem. 264, 7617-7623). The present studies compare effects of ceramide, sphingosine, and N,N-dimethylsphingosine on epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor phosphorylation in A431 human epidermoid carcinoma cells. To increase ceramide solubility, a ceramide containing octanoic acid at the second position (C8-cer) was synthesized. C8-cer induced time- and concentration-dependent EGF receptor phosphorylation. This event was detectable by 2 min and maximal by 10 min. As little as 0.1 microM C8-cer was effective, and 3 microM C8-cer induced maximal phosphorylation to 1.9-fold of control. EGF (20 nM) increased phosphorylation to 2.1-fold of control. Sphingosine stimulated receptor phosphorylation over the same concentration range (0.03-3 microM) and to the same extent (1.8-fold of control) as ceramide. The effects of C8-cer and sphingosine were similar by three separate criteria, phosphoamino acid analysis, anti-phosphotyrosine antibody immunoblotting, and phosphopeptide mapping by high performance liquid chromatography. Phosphorylation occurred specifically on threonine residues. N,N-Dimethylsphingosine, a potential derivative of sphingosine, was less effective. Since sphingosine and ceramide are interconvertible, the level of each compound was measured under conditions sufficient for EGF receptor phosphorylation. C8-cer (0.1-1 microM) induced dose-responsive elevation of cellular ceramide from 132 to 232 pmol.10(6) cells-1. In contrast, cellular sphingosine levels did not rise. This suggests that C8-cer acts without conversion to sphingosine. Exogenous sphingosine (0.1-1 microM) also increased cellular ceramide levels to 227 pmol.10(6) cells-1, but did not increase its own cellular level of 12 pmol.10(6) cells-1. Higher sphingosine concentrations that induced no further increase in EGF receptor phosphorylation produced very large elevations in cellular sphingosine. Hence, at effective concentrations, both compounds elevated cellular ceramide but not sphingosine levels. Additional studies performed with [3H]sphingosine demonstrated that cells contain substantially less N,N-dimethylsphingosine than free sphingosine and, during short term incubation, convert less than 5% of added sphingosine to N,N-dimethylsphingosine. These studies provide evidence that ceramide may have bioeffector properties and suggest sphingosine may act in part by conversion to ceramide.