Regulation of Apoptosis during Neuronal Differentiation by Ceramide and b-Series Complex Gangliosides

Erhard Bieberich, Sarah MacKinnon, Jeane Silva, Robert K Yu

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71 Scopus citations


Lipid analysis of gestational day E14.5 mouse brain revealed elevation of ceramide to a tissue concentration that induced apoptosis when added to the medium of neuroprogenitor cells grown in cell culture. Elevation of ceramide was coincident with the first appearance of b-series complex gangliosides (BCGs). Expression of BCGs by stable transfection of murine neuroblastoma (F-11) cells with sialyltransferase-II (ST2) resulted in a 70% reduction of ceramide-induced apoptosis. This was most likely due to an 80% reduced expression of prostate apoptosis response-4 (PAR-4). PAR-4 expression and apoptosis were restored by preincubation of ST2-transfected cells with N-butyl deoxinojirimycin (NB-DNJ) or PD98059, two inhibitors of ganglioside biosynthesis or p42/44 mitogen-activated protein (MAPK) kinase, respectively. In sections of day E14.5 mouse brain, the intermediate zone showed intensive staining for complex gangliosides, but only low staining for apoptosis (TUNEL) and PAR-4. Apoptosis and PAR-4 expression, however, were elevated in the ventricular zone which only weakly stained for complex gangliosides. Whole cell patch clamping revealed a 2-fold increased calcium influx in ST2-transfected cells, the blocking of which with nifedipine restored apoptosis to the level of untransfected cells. In serum-free culture, supplementation of the medium with IGF-1 was required to maintain MAPK phosphorylation and the anti-apoptotic effect of BCG expression. BCG-enhanced calcium influx and the presence of insulin-like growth factor-1 may thus activate a cell survival mechanism that selectively protects developing neurons against ceramide-induced apoptosis by up-regulation of MAPK and reduction of PAR-4 expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44396-44404
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number48
StatePublished - Nov 30 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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