Inhibitors of ceramide de novo biosynthesis rescue damages induced by cigarette smoke in airways epithelia

  • Aida Zulueta
  • Anna Caretti
  • Giuseppe Matteo Campisi
  • Andrea Brizzolari
  • Jose Luis Abad
  • Rita Paroni
  • Paola Signorelli
  • Riccardo Ghidoni
Brief Communication


Exposure to cigarette smoke represents the most important risk factor for the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is characterized by chronic inflammation of the airways, imbalance of proteolytic activity resulting in the destruction of lung parenchyma, alveolar hypoxia, oxidative stress, and apoptosis. Sphingolipids are structural membrane components whose metabolism is altered during stress. Known as apoptosis and inflammation inducer, the sphingolipid ceramide was found to accumulate in COPD airways and its plasma concentration increased as well. The present study investigates the role of sphingolipids in the cigarette smoke-induced damage of human airway epithelial cells. Lung epithelial cells were pre-treated with sphingolipid synthesis inhibitors (myriocin or XM462) and then exposed to a mixture of nicotine, acrolein, formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde, the major toxic cigarette smoke components. The inflammatory and proteolytic responses were investigated by analysis of the mRNA expression (RT-PCR) of cytokines IL-1β and IL-8, and matrix metalloproteinase-9 and of the protein expression (ELISA) of IL-8. Ceramide intracellular amounts were measured by LC-MS technique. Ferric-reducing antioxidant power test and superoxide anion radical scavenging activity assay were used to assess the antioxidant power of the inhibitors of ceramide synthesis. We here show that ceramide synthesis is enhanced under treatment with a cigarette smoke mixture correlating with increased expression of inflammatory cytokines and matrix metalloproteinase 9. The use of inhibitors of ceramide synthesis protected from smoke induced damages such as inflammation, oxidative stress, and proteolytic imbalance in airways epithelia.


Sphingolipids Ceramide Cigarette smoke Inflammation Oxidative stress Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Sciences Department, Biochemistry & Mol. Biology Lab.University of MilanMilanItaly
  2. 2.Health Sciences Department, Clinical Biochemistry &Mass Spectrometry LabUniversity of MilanMilanItaly
  3. 3.Department of Biomed. Chem., IQAC/CSICResearch Unit on Bioactive MoleculesBarcelonaSpain

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