Ataxia telangiectasia-mutated gene product inhibits DNA damage-induced apoptosis via ceramide synthase
DNA double-stranded breaks (dsb) activate surveillance systems that identify DNA damage and either initiate repair or signal cell death. Failure of cells to undergo appropriate death in response to DNA damage leads to misrepair, mutations, and neoplastic transformation. Pathways linking DNA dsb to reproductive or apoptotic death are virtually unknown. Here we report that metabolic incorporation of 125I-labeled 5-iodo-2'deoxyuridine, which produces DNA dsb, signaled de novo ceramide synthesis by post-translational activation of ceramide synthase (CS) and apoptosis. CS activation was obligatory, since fumonisin B1, a fungal pathogen that acts as a specific CS inhibitor, abrogated DNA damage-induced death. X-irradiation yielded similar results. Furthermore, inhibition of apoptosis using the peptide caspase inhibitor benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp fluoromethylketone did not affect CS activation, indicating this event is not a consequence of induction of apoptosis. ATM, the gene mutated in ataxia telangiectasia, is a member of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase family that constitutes the DNA damage surveillance/repair system. Epstein-Barr virus-immortalized B cell lines from six ataxia telangiectasia patients with different mutations exhibited radiation-induced CS activation, ceramide generation, and apoptosis, whereas three lines from normal patients failed to manifest these responses. Stable transfection of wild type ATM cDNA reversed these events, whereas antisense inactivation of ataxia telangiectasia-mutated gene product in normal B cells conferred the ataxia telangiectasia phenotype. We propose that one of the functions of ataxia telangiectasia-mutated gene product is to constrain activation of CS, thereby regulating DNA damage-induced apoptosis.