Fas-mediated apoptosis and sphingomyelinase signal transduction: The role of ceramide as a second messenger for apoptosis
In this article, we review the role of sphingomyelinases and ceramide in the Fas-mediated apoptosis signal transduction cascade. Several stimuli, including ligation of Fas, have been shown to enhance either neutral and/or acidic sphingomyelinase activity and increase ceramide content in intact cells or cell membrane preparations. Ceramide seems to have different functions, including induction of apoptosis, growth arrest, and/or differentiation, depending on cell type or location of sphingomyelin hydrolysis within the cell. Several putative targets for ceramide activity, including a kinase and a phosphatase, have also been identified. While ceramide and acidic sphingomyelinase activity appear to be involved in apoptotic signalling for Fas and other members of the tumour necrosis factor receptor family, it is clear that other signals and mechanisms are necessary for Fas-mediated apoptosis.