Synthetic ceramides inhibit CD36 expression in U937 cells through a reduction in cytosolic peroxide

E. Luan, D.C. Phillips, Helen R. Griffiths

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Ceramide (a sphingolipid) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) are each partly responsible for the intracellular signal transduction of a variety of physiological, pharmacological or environmental agents. It has been reported that synthesis of ceramide and ROS are intimately linked, and show reciprocal regulation. The levels of ceramide are reported to be elevated in atherosclerotic plaques providing circumstantial evidence for a pro-atherogenic role for ceramide. Indeed, LDL may be important sources of ceramide from sphingomyelin, where it promotes LDL aggregation. Using synthetic, short chain ceramides to mimic the cellular responses to fluctuations in natural endogenous ceramides, we have investigated ceramide effects on both intracellular redox state (as glutathione and ROS) and redox-sensitive gene expression, specifically the scavenger receptor CD36 (using RT-PCR and flow cytometry), in U937 monocytes and macrophages. We describe that the principal redox altering properties of ceramide are to lower cytosolic peroxide and to increase mitochondrial ROS formation, where growth arrest of U937 monocytes is also observed. In addition, cellular glutathione was depleted, which was independent of an increase in glutathione peroxidase activity. Examination of the effects of ceramide on stress induced CD36 expression in macrophages, revealed a dose dependent reduction in CD36 mRNA and protein levels, which was mimicked by N-acetyl cysteine. Taken together, these data suggest that ceramides differentially affect ROS within different cellular compartments, and that loss of cytosolic peroxide inhibits expression of the redox sensitive gene, CD36. This may attenuate both the uptake of oxidised LDL and the interaction of HDL with macrophages. The resulting sequelae in vivo remain to be determined.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-40
Number of pages1
JournalFree Radical Research
Issue numberSuppl. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • synthetic ceramides
  • CD36 expression
  • U937 cells
  • cytosolic peroxide


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