Ceramide signaling in fenretinide-induced endothelial cell apoptosis

Anat Erdreich-Epstein, Linda B. Tran, Nina N. Bowman, Hongtao Wang, Myles C. Cabot, Donald L. Durden, Jitka Vlckova, C. Patrick Reynolds, Monique F. Stins, Susan Groshen, Melissa Millard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Stress stimuli can mediate apoptosis by generation of the lipid second messenger, ceramide. Herein we investigate the molecular mechanism of ceramide signaling in endothelial apoptosis induced by fenretinide (N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide (4-HPR)). 4-HPR, a synthetic derivative of retinoic acid that induces ceramide in tumor cell lines, has been shown to have antiangiogenic effects, but the molecular mechanism of these is largely unknown. We report that 4-HPR was cytotoxic to endothelial cells (50% cytotoxicity at 2.4 μM, 90% at 5.36 μM) and induced a caspase-dependent endothelial apoptosis. 4-HPR (5 μM) increased ceramide levels in endothelial cells 5.3-fold, and the increase in ceramide was required to achieve the apoptotic effect of 4-HPR. The 4-HPR-induced increase in ceramide was suppressed by inhibitors of ceramide synthesis, fumonisin B1, myriocin, and L-cycloserine, and 4-HPR transiently activated serine palmitoyltransferase, demonstrating that 4-HPR induced de novo ceramide synthesis. Sphingomyelin levels were not altered by 4-HPR, and desipramine had no effect on ceramide level, suggesting that sphingomyelinase did not contribute to the 4-HPR-induced ceramide increase. Finally, the pancaspase inhibitor, t-butyloxy-carbonyl-aspartyl[O-methyl]-fluoromethyl ketone, suppressed 4-HPR-mediated apoptosis but not ceramide accumulation, suggesting that ceramide is upstream of caspases. Our results provide the first evidence that increased ceramide biosynthesis is required for 4-HPR-induced endothelial apoptosis and present a molecular mechanism for its antiangiogenic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49531-49537
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 20 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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