Ceramide is involved in r(+)-methanandamide-induced cyclooxygenase-2 expression in human neuroglioma cells

Robert Ramer, Ulrike Weinzierl, Bianca Schwind, Kay Brune, Burkhard Hinz
Molecular Pharmacology 2003, 64 (5): 1189-98
Cannabinoids have recently been shown to induce the expression of the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) isoenzyme in H4 human neuroglioma cells. Using this cell line, the present study investigates the contribution of the second messenger ceramide to this signaling pathway. Incubation of cells with the endocannabinoid analog R(+)-methanandamide (R(+)-MA) was associated with an increase of intracellular ceramide levels. Enhancement of ceramide formation by R(+)-MA was abolished by fumonisin B1, a ceramide synthase inhibitor, whereas inhibitors of neutral sphingomyelinase (spiroepoxide, glutathione) and serine palmitoyltransferase (l-cycloserine, ISP-1) were inactive in this respect. R(+)-MA caused a biphasic activation of the p38 and p42/44 mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), with phosphorylation peaks occurring after 15-min and 4- to 8-h treatments, respectively. Inhibition of ceramide synthesis with fumonisin B1 was associated with a suppression of R(+)-MA-induced delayed phosphorylations of p38 and p42/44 MAPKs and subsequent COX-2 expression. The involvement of ceramide in COX-2 expression was corroborated by findings showing that C2-ceramide and neutral sphingomyelinase from Bacillus cereus caused concentration-dependent increases of COX-2 expression that were suppressed in the presence of 4-(4-fluorophenyl)-2-(4-methylsulfonylphenyl)-5-(4-pyridyl)imidazol (SB203580, a p38 MAPK inhibitor) or 2'-amino-3'-methoxyflavone (PD98059, a p42/44 MAPK activation inhibitor). In contrast, dihydro-C2-ceramide being used as a negative control did not induce MAPK phosphorylation and COX-2 expression. Collectively, our results demonstrate that R(+)-MA induces COX-2 expression in human neuroglioma cells via synthesis of ceramide and subsequent activation of p38 and p42/44 MAPK pathways. Induction of COX-2 expression via ceramide represents a hitherto unknown mechanism by which cannabinoids mediate biological effects within the central nervous system.

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