Soeda S, Tsuji Y, Ochiai T, Mishima K, Iwasaki K, Fujiwara M, Yokomatsu T, Murano T, Shibuya S, Shimeno H.
Magnesium-dependent neutral sphingomyelinase (N-SMase) present in plasma membranes is an enzyme that can be activated by stress in the form of inflammatory cytokines, serum deprivation, and hypoxia. The design of small molecule N-SMase inhibitors may offer new therapies for the treatment of inflammation, ischemic injury, and cerebral infarction. Recently, we synthesized a series of difluoromethylene analogues (SMAs) of sphingomyelin. We report here the effects of SMAs on the serum/glucose deprivation-induced death of neuronally differentiated pheochromocytoma (PC-12) cells and on cerebral infarction in mice. SMAs inhibited the enhanced N-SMase activity in the serum/glucose-deprived PC-12 cells, and thereby suppressed the apoptotic sequence: ceramide formation, c-Jun N-terminal kinase phosphorylation, caspase-3 activation, and DNA fragmentation in the nuclei. Administration of SMA-7 (10 mg/kg i.v.) with IC50= 3.3 microM to mice whose middle cerebral arteries were occluded reduced significantly the size of the cerebral infarcts, compared to the control mice. These results suggest that N-SMase is a key component of the signaling pathways in cytokine- and other stress-induced cellular responses, and that inhibiting or stopping N-SMase activity is an important strategy to prevent neuron death from ischemia.