• Deoxycholate promotes survival of breast cancer cells by reducing the level of pro-apoptotic ceramide.

      Krishnamurthy, Kannan; Wang, Guanghu; Rokhfeld, Dmitriy; Bieberich, Erhard; Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics; Student Research and Training (STAR) Program, School of Graduate Studies (2009-02-23)
      INTRODUCTION: At physiologic concentration in serum, the bile acid sodium deoxycholate (DC) induces survival and migration of breast cancer cells. Here we provide evidence of a novel mechanism by which DC reduces apoptosis that is induced by the sphingolipid ceramide in breast cancer cells. METHODS: Murine mammacarcinoma 4T1 cells were used in vitro to determine apoptosis and alteration of sphingolipid metabolism by DC, and in vivo to quantify the effect of DC on metastasis. RESULTS: We found that DC increased the number of intestinal metastases generated from 4T1 cell tumors grafted into the fat pad. The metastatic nodes contained slowly dividing cancer cells in immediate vicinity of newly formed blood vessels. These cells were positive for CD44, a marker that has been suggested to be expressed on breast cancer stem cells. In culture, a subpopulation (3 +/- 1%) of slowly dividing, CD44+ cells gave rise to rapidly dividing, CD44- cells. DC promoted survival of CD44+ cells, which was concurrent with reduced levels of activated caspase 3 and ceramide, a sphingolipid inducing apoptosis in 4T1 cells. Z-guggulsterone, an antagonist of the farnesoid-X-receptor, obliterated this anti-apoptotic effect, indicating that DC increased cell survival via farnesoid-X-receptor. DC also increased the gene expression of the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (Flk-1), suggesting that DC enhanced the initial growth of secondary tumors adjacent to blood vessels. The Flk-1 antagonist SU5416 obliterated the reduction of ceramide and apoptosis by DC, indicating that enhanced cell survival is due to Flk-1-induced reduction in ceramide. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings show, for the first time, that DC is a natural tumor promoter by elevating Flk-1 and decreasing ceramide-mediated apoptosis of breast cancer progenitor cells. Reducing the level or effect of serum DC and elevating ceramide in breast cancer progenitor cells by treatment with Z-guggulsterone and/or vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2/Flk-1 antagonists may thus be a promising strategy to reduce breast cancer metastasis.
    • Selective apoptosis of pluripotent mouse and human stem cells by novel ceramide analogues prevents teratoma formation and enriches for neural precursors in ES cellâ derived neural transplants

      Bieberich, Erhard; Silva, Jeane; Wang, Guanghu; Krishnamurthy, Kannan; Condie, Brian G.; Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics (2004-11-22)
      The formation of stem cellâ derived tumors (teratomas) is observed when engrafting undifferentiated embryonic stem (ES) cells, embryoid bodyâ derived cells (EBCs), or mammalian embryos and is a significant obstacle to stem cell therapy. We show that in tumors formed after engraftment of EBCs into mouse brain, expression of the pluripotency marker Oct-4 colocalized with that of prostate apoptosis response-4 (PAR-4), a protein mediating ceramide-induced apoptosis during neural differentiation of ES cells. We tested the ability of the novel ceramide analogue N-oleoyl serinol (S18) to eliminate mouse and human Oct-4(+)/PAR-4(+) cells and to increase the proportion of nestin(+) neuroprogenitors in EBC-derived cell cultures and grafts. S18-treated EBCs persisted in the hippocampal area and showed neuronal lineage differentiation as indicated by the expression of β-tubulin III. However, untreated cells formed numerous teratomas that contained derivatives of endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm. Our results show for the first time that ceramide-induced apoptosis eliminates residual, pluripotent EBCs, prevents teratoma formation, and enriches the EBCs for cells that undergo neural differentiation after transplantation.