Sphingosine kinase 2 is a negative regulator of inflammatory macrophage activation

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2019 Sep;1864(9):1235-1246. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2019.05.008. Epub 2019 May 23.


Sphingosine kinases (SPHK) generate the sphingolipid sphingosine-1-phosphate, which, among other functions, is a potent regulator of inflammation. While SPHK1 produces S1P to promote inflammatory signaling, the role of SPHK2 is unclear due to divergent findings in studies utilizing gene depletion versus inhibition of catalytic activity. We sought to clarify how SPHK2 affects inflammatory signaling in human macrophages, which are main regulators of inflammation. SPHK2 expression and activity were rapidly decreased within 6 h upon stimulating primary human macrophages with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), but was upregulated after 24 h. At 24 h following LPS stimulation, targeting SPHK2 with the inhibitor ABC294640, a specific siRNA or by using Sphk2-/- mouse peritoneal macrophages increased inflammatory cytokine production. Downregulation of SPHK2 in primary human macrophages within 6 h of LPS treatment was blocked by inhibiting autophagy. SPHK2 overexpression or inhibiting autophagy 6 h after human macrophage activation with LPS suppressed inflammatory cytokine release. Mechanistically, SPHK2 suppressed LPS-triggered NF-κB activation independent of its catalytic activity and prevented increased mitochondrial ROS formation downstream of LPS. In conclusion, SPHK2 is an anti-inflammatory protein in human macrophages that is inversely coupled to inflammatory cytokine production. This needs consideration when targeting SPHK2 with specific inhibitors.

Keywords: Autophagy; Inflammation; Macrophage; Sphingolipids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Macrophage Activation*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Male
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor) / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor)
  • sphingosine kinase 2, human