Sphingosine kinases (SphKs) have been recognized as important proteins regulating cell proliferation and apoptosis. Of the two isoforms of SphK (SphK1 and SphK2), little is known about the functions of SphK2. Sodium butyrate (NaBT) has been established as a promising chemotherapeutic agent, but the precise mechanism for its effects is unknown. In this study, we investigated the role of SphK2 in NaBT-induced apoptosis of HCT116 colon cancer cells. The results indicated that following NaBT treatment SphK2 was translocated from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, leading to its accumulation in the cytoplasm; in the meantime, only mild apoptosis occurred. However, downregulation of SphK2 resulted in sensitized apoptosis, and overexpression of SphK2 led to even lighter apoptosis; these strongly indicate an inhibitory role of SphK2 in cell apoptosis induced by NaBT. After knocking down protein kinase D (PKD), another protein reported to be critical in cell proliferation/apoptosis process, by using siRNA, blockage of cytoplasmic accumulation of SphK2 and sensitized apoptosis following NaBT treatment were observed. The present study suggests that PKD and SphK2 may form a mechanism for the resistance of cancer cells to tumor chemotherapies, such as HCT116 colon cancer cells to NaBT, and these two proteins may become molecular targets for designation of new tumor-therapeutic drugs.
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