Serine-Dependent Sphingolipid Synthesis Is a Metabolic Liability of Aneuploid Cells

Cell Rep. 2017 Dec 26;21(13):3807-3818. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.11.103.


Aneuploidy disrupts cellular homeostasis. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the physiological responses and adaptation to aneuploidy are not well understood. Deciphering these mechanisms is important because aneuploidy is associated with diseases, including intellectual disability and cancer. Although tumors and mammalian aneuploid cells, including several cancer cell lines, show altered levels of sphingolipids, the role of sphingolipids in aneuploidy remains unknown. Here, we show that ceramides and long-chain bases, sphingolipid molecules that slow proliferation and promote survival, are increased by aneuploidy. Sphingolipid levels are tightly linked to serine synthesis, and inhibiting either serine or sphingolipid synthesis can specifically impair the fitness of aneuploid cells. Remarkably, the fitness of aneuploid cells improves or deteriorates upon genetically decreasing or increasing ceramides, respectively. Combined targeting of serine and sphingolipid synthesis could be exploited to specifically target cancer cells, the vast majority of which are aneuploid.

Keywords: aneuploidy; ceramide; chromosomes; genomic istability; long-chain bases; metabolism; myriocin; serine; sphingolipids; sphingosine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aneuploidy*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Ceramides / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism*
  • Serine / biosynthesis
  • Serine / metabolism*
  • Sphingolipids / biosynthesis*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Up-Regulation / genetics


  • Ceramides
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Sphingolipids
  • Serine