Ceramide synthase 6 impacts T-cell allogeneic response and graft-versus-host disease through regulating N-RAS/ERK pathway

Leukemia. 2022 Jul;36(7):1907-1915. doi: 10.1038/s41375-022-01581-6. Epub 2022 May 5.


Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT) is an effective immunotherapy for various hematologic malignancies, predominantly through potent graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect. However, the mortality after allo-HCT is because of relapse of primary malignancy and followed by graft-vs-host-disease (GVHD) as a major cause of transplant-related mortality. Hence, strategies to limit GVHD while preserving the GVL effect are highly desirable. Ceramide, which serves a central role in sphingolipid metabolism, is generated by ceramide synthases (CerS1-6). In this study, we found that genetic or pharmacologic targeting of CerS6 prevented and reversed chronic GVHD (cGVHD). Furthermore, specific inhibition of CerS6 with ST1072 significantly ameliorated acute GVHD (aGVHD) while preserving the GVL effect, which differed from FTY720 that attenuated aGVHD but impaired GVL activity. At the cellular level, blockade of CerS6 restrained donor T cells from migrating into GVHD target organs and preferentially reduced activation of donor CD4 T cells. At the molecular level, CerS6 was required for optimal TCR signaling, CD3/PKCθ co-localization, and subsequent N-RAS activation and ERK signaling, especially on CD4+ T cells. The current study provides rationale and means for targeting CerS6 to control GVHD and leukemia relapse, which would enhance the efficacy of allo-HCT as an immunotherapy for hematologic malignancies in the clinic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Ceramides / pharmacology
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / metabolism
  • Graft vs Host Disease* / prevention & control
  • Graft vs Leukemia Effect
  • Hematologic Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Leukemia*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Recurrence
  • T-Lymphocytes
  • Transplantation, Homologous


  • Ceramides
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Oxidoreductases
  • dihydroceramide desaturase
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases
  • NRAS protein, human