Induction of the manganese superoxide dismutase gene by sphingomyelinase and ceramide

J Neurochem. 1999 Aug;73(2):513-20. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.1999.0730513.x.


The present study reports the effect of ceramide generated by hydrolysis of membrane sphingomyelin with bacterial sphingomyelinase (SMase) and of cell-permeable ceramide analogues on the expression of manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD). Incubation of the rat primary astrocytes with SMase led to a time- and dose-dependent increase in MnSOD activity. The increase in MnSOD activity was accompanied by an increase in MnSOD protein and mRNA. A similar effect on the expression of MnSOD was observed with the addition of cell-permeable ceramide analogues (C2 and C6). On the other hand, C2-dihydroceramide (N-acetylsphinganine), which lacks the functional critical double bond, was ineffective in inducing the expression of MnSOD. Nuclear run-on analysis showed that SMase and ceramide increased the rate of transcription of the MnSOD gene. Besides astrocytes, SMase was also found to induce the expression of MnSOD in rat mesangial cells, C6 glial cells, PC12 cells, and human skin fibroblasts. Markedly higher expression of mRNA, protein, and activity of MnSOD in skin fibroblasts from patients with Farber disease, a human disorder with pathognomonic accumulation of ceramide due to a deficiency of ceramidase, than in normal skin fibroblasts indicate that ceramide may act as a physiological inducer of MnSOD gene expression. However, stimulation of ceramide-mediated DNA fragmentation by antisense knockdown of MnSOD suggests that induction of MnSOD by ceramide is a protective response of the cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antisense Elements (Genetics)
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / enzymology
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Ceramides / pharmacology
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / enzymology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects
  • Glomerular Mesangium / cytology
  • Glomerular Mesangium / enzymology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / pharmacology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Lysosomal Storage Diseases / enzymology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Skin / cytology
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase / pharmacology*
  • Sphingosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Sphingosine / pharmacology
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology


  • Antisense Elements (Genetics)
  • Ceramides
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Interleukin-1
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • N-acetylsphingosine
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • N-caproylsphingosine
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase
  • Sphingosine