Ceramide Synthase 6 Maximizes p53 Function to Prevent Progeny Formation from Polyploid Giant Cancer Cells

Cancers (Basel). 2021 May 5;13(9):2212. doi: 10.3390/cancers13092212.


Polyploid giant cancer cells (PGCC) constitute a transiently senescent subpopulation of cancer cells that arises in response to stress. PGCC are capable of generating progeny via a primitive, cleavage-like cell division that is dependent on the sphingolipid enzyme acid ceramidase (ASAH1). The goal of this study was to understand differences in sphingolipid metabolism between non-polyploid and polyploid cancer cells to gain an understanding of the ASAH1-dependence in the PGCC population. Steady-state and flux analysis of sphingolipids did not support our initial hypothesis that the ASAH1 product sphingosine is rapidly converted into the pro-survival lipid sphingosine-1-phosphate. Instead, our results suggest that ASAH1 activity is important for preventing the accumulation of long chain ceramides such as C16-ceramide. We therefore determined how modulation of C16-ceramide, either through CerS6 or p53, a known PGCC suppressor and enhancer of CerS6-derived C16-ceramide, affected PGCC progeny formation. Co-expression of the CerS6 and p53 abrogated the ability of PGCC to form offspring, suggesting that the two genes form a positive feedback loop. CerS6 enhanced the effect of p53 by significantly increasing protein half-life. Our results support the idea that sphingolipid metabolism is of functional importance in PGCC and that targeting this signaling pathway has potential for clinical intervention.

Keywords: cancer; ceramide; ceramide synthase; polyploidy; sphingolipids: p53.