Sphingolipids are ubiquitous components of eukaryotic cells and sphingolipid metabolites, such as the long chain base phosphate (LCB-P), sphingosine 1 phosphate (S1P) and ceramide (Cer) are important regulators of apoptosis in animal cells. This study evaluated the role of LCB-Ps in regulating apoptotic-like programmed cell death (AL-PCD) in plant cells using commercially available S1P as a tool. Arabidopsis cell cultures were exposed to a diverse array of cell death-inducing treatments (including Cer) in the presence of S1P. Rates of AL-PCD and cell survival were recorded using vital stains and morphological markers of AL-PCD. Internal LCB-P levels were altered in suspension cultured cells using inhibitors of sphingosine kinase and changes in rates of death in response to heat stress were evaluated. S1P reduced AL-PCD and promoted cell survival in cells subjected to a range of stresses. Treatments with inhibitors of sphingosine kinase lowered the temperature which induced maximal AL-PCD in cell cultures. The data supports the existence of a sphingolipid rheostat involved in controlling cell fate in Arabidopsis cells and that sphingolipid regulation of cell death may be a shared feature of both animal apoptosis and plant AL-PCD.
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