Structural requirements for long-chain (sphingoid) base inhibition of protein kinase C in vitro and for the cellular effects of these compounds

Biochemistry. 1989 Apr 18;28(8):3138-45. doi: 10.1021/bi00434a004.


Sphingosine, sphinganine, and other long-chain (sphingoid) bases inhibit protein kinase C in vitro and block cellular responses to agonists that are thought to act via this enzyme. To gain further insight into the mechanism of this inhibition, a series of long-chain analogues differing in alkyl chain length (11-20 carbon atoms), stereochemistry, and headgroup were examined for (a) inhibition of protein kinase C activity in vitro, (b) the neutrophil respiratory burst in response to phorbol myristate acetate (PMA), (c) the PMA-induced differentiation of HL-60 cells, and (d) the growth of Chinese hamster ovary cells. In every instance, the effects were maximal with the 18-carbon homologues, which are the same length as the predominant naturally occurring long-chain base (sphingosine). The lower potency of the shorter chain homologues was partially due to decreased uptake by cells. Small differences were obtained with the four stereoisomers of sphingosine (i.e., D and L forms of erythro- and threo-sphingosine), with N-methyl derivatives of the different sphingosine homologues, and with simpler alkylamines (e.g., stearylamine). The potency of the different headgroup analogues may be affected by the degree of protonation at the assay pH. The pKa of sphingosine was measured to be 6.7; the pKa varied among the analogues. These findings establish that the major structural features required for inhibition of protein kinase C and cellular processes dependent on this enzyme are the presence of a free amino group and an aliphatic side chain and that other groups have more subtle effects.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase C / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Sphingosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Sphingosine / pharmacology
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / pharmacology


  • Protein Kinase C
  • Sphingosine
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate
  • Oxygen