Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) has been implicated in angiogenesis, inflammation, cancerogenesis, neurological excitability and immune regulation and is synthesized by two different sphingosine kinases (SphK). It was suggested that mice lacking the gene for SphK1 exhibit no obvious phenotype, because SphK2 compensates for its absence. However, recent investigations revealed that under challenge SphK1 contributed to pro-inflammatory processes favoring Th2 and Th17 rather than Th1-type reactions. To investigate the immune modulatory role of SphK1 as opposed to SphK2 specifically for the Th1 propagating IL-12p70 we compared WT and SphK1(-/-) splenocytes and Flt3-ligand differentiated BMCs of WT and SphK1(-/-), representing dendritic cells as major producers of IL-12p70, incubated with LPS. We determined the impact on IL-12p70 in comparison to other inflammatory cytokines, and on DC and macrophage surface marker expression, SphK mRNA, protein expression and enzymatic activity in splenocytes. Our data demonstrated that SphK1 deficiency enhanced LPS-induced IL-12p70 production although SphK2 was present. To further characterize SphK1-dependent IL-12p70 regulation we exogenously applied S1P, SEW2871 and the new potent S1P1 agonist CYM5442. Both S1P and S1P1-specific analogs fully compensated the increase of IL-12p70 production in SphK1-deficient splenocytes. The use of pertussis toxin, to block G(i)-coupled signaling downstream of S1P1, again increased IL-12p70 and neglected the compensation achieved by addition of S1P and S1P1 agonists pointing on the importance of this specific S1P-receptor. Given that, in parallel to a prominent IL-12p35 increase following LPS stimulation, LPS also enhanced SphK expression and total SphK activity, we concluded that SphK1-derived S1P acting via S1P1 is a major mechanism of this negative IL-12p70 feedback loop, which did not affect other cytokines. Moreover, our data showed that SphK2 activity failed to compensate for SphK1 deficiency. These findings clearly point to a divergent and cytokine-specific impact of immune cell SphK1 and SphK2 in chronic inflammation and cancer.
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