Bacterial lipopolysaccharide has structural similarity to ceramide and stimulates ceramide-activated protein kinase in myeloid cells
Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) stimulate similar cellular responses. TNF-alpha and IL-1 beta are known to initiate signaling through a pathway involving hydrolysis of sphingomyelin to ceramide (Kolesnick, R. N., and Golde, D. W. (1994) Cell 77, 325-328). In this system, ceramide acts as a second messenger stimulating a ceramide-activated serine/threonine protein kinase. The present studies demonstrate that LPS, like TNF and IL-1, stimulates ceramide-activated protein kinase activity in human leukemia (HL-60) cells and in freshly isolated human neutrophils. Lipid A, the biologically active core of LPS, enhanced kinase activity in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. As little as 10 nM lipid A was effective, and a maximal effect occurred with 500 nM lipid A, increasing kinase activity 5-fold. Native LPS similarly induced kinase activation. This effect of LPS was markedly enhanced by LPS binding protein and required the LPS receptor CD14. In contrast to TNF and IL-1, LPS did not cause sphingomyelin hydrolysis and thus stimulates ceramide-activated protein kinase without generating ceramide. Molecular modeling showed strong structural similarity between ceramide and a region of lipid A. Based on these observations, we propose that LPS stimulates cells by mimicking the second messenger function of ceramide.