Ceramide, a product of sphingomyelin hydrolysis by sphingomyelinase, elicits various cellular functions and has recently been regarded as a second messenger. To investigate the role of ceramide in rat basophilic leukemia (RBL-2H3) cells, the effects of a cell-permeable analogue, N-acetylsphingosine (C2-ceramide), on Ag-mediated cellular responses were examined. C2-Ceramide inhibited Ag- or PMA-induced activation of phospholipase D (PLD), whereas Ca2+ ionophore A23187-induced PLD activation was not affected. C2-Ceramide failed to inhibit PLD activity in two different in vitro assay systems. Since PLD activity is known to be regulated by several factors, the effects of C2-ceramide on these factors were examined. We have previously reported the possible involvement of protein tyrosine kinase in Ag-mediated PLD activation. However, C2-ceramide had no effect on Ag-induced protein tyrosine phosphorylation, including mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases. In fura-2-loaded RBL-2H3 cells, C2-ceramide suppressed Ag-induced Ca2+ influx, leaving initial Ca2+ increase and inositol phosphate production unaffected. Western blot analysis revealed that Ag caused translocation of protein kinase C (PKC) alpha, beta 1, beta 2, delta and epsilon isozymes from cytosol to membrane fraction. Translocation of alpha, beta 1, and beta 2 isozymes was specifically prevented by C2-ceramide. Moreover, C2-ceramide suppressed Ag-induced serotonin release. In the absence of extracellular Ca2+, Ag-induced PLD activation and release reaction were greatly reduced. The inhibitory profile was nearly the same as that obtained in C2-ceramide-treated cells. These results suggest that C2-ceramide inhibits Ag-induced PLD activation and serotonin release, probably through the blockage of Ca2+ influx and translocation of Ca(2+)-dependent PKC isozymes in RBL-2H3 cells.

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