Most mammalian sphingolipids contain a 4,5-(E)-double bond. We report on the chemical synthesis of a dihydroceramide derivative that prevents the introduction of the double bond into sphingolipids. Minimal alteration of the parent structure by formally replacing the hydrogen atoms in the 5- and in the 6-position of the sphinganine backbone by a methylene group leads to an inhibitor of dihydroceramide desaturase in cultured cells. In the presence of 10-50 μM of compound (1), levels of biosynthetically formed dihydroceramide and-surprisingly-also of phytoceramide are elevated at the expense of ceramide. The cells respond to the lack of unsaturated sphingolipids by an elevation of mRNAs of enzymes required for sphingosine formation. At the same time, the analysis of proliferation and differentiation markers indicates that the sphingolipid double bond is required to keep the cells in a differentiated state.
The article is published in the Journal of Lipids and is free to access.