TAK1 mediates the ceramide signaling to stress-activated protein kinase/c-Jun N-terminal kinase

J Biol Chem. 1997 Mar 28;272(13):8141-4. doi: 10.1074/jbc.272.13.8141.


Ceramide has been proposed as a second messenger molecule implicated in a variety of biological processes. It has recently been reported that ceramide activates stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK, also known as c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase JNK), a subfamily member of mitogen-activated protein kinase superfamily molecules and that the ceramide/SAPK/JNK signaling pathway is required for stress-induced apoptosis. However, the molecular mechanism by which ceramide induces SAPK/JNK activation is unknown. Here we show that TAK1, a member of the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase family, is activated by treatment of cells with agents and stresses that induce an increase in ceramide. Ceramide itself stimulated the kinase activity of TAK1. Expression of a constitutively active form of TAK1 resulted in activation of SAPK/JNK and SEK1/MKK4, a direct activator of SAPK/JNK. Furthermore, expression of a kinase-negative form of TAK1 interfered with the activation of SAPK/JNK induced by ceramide. These results indicate that TAK1 may function as a mediator of ceramide signaling to SAPK/JNK activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COS Cells
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Ceramides / metabolism*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 4*
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases*
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Ceramides
  • Protein Kinases
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases
  • MAP kinase kinase kinase 7
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 4
  • MAP2K4 protein, human
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases