Sphingosine kinase (SPHK) is a key enzyme catalysing the formation of sphingosine 1-phosphate (SPP), a lipid messenger that is implicated in the regulation of a wide variety of important cellular events acting through intracellular, as well as extracellular, mechanisms. However, the molecular mechanism of intracellular actions of SPP remains unclear. Here, we have identified δ-catenin/NPRAP (neural plakophilin-related armadillo repeat protein) as a potential binding partner for SPHK1 by yeast two-hybrid screening. From co-immunoprecipitation analyses, the C-terminal portion of δ-catenin/NPRAP containing the seventh to tenth armadillo repeats was found to be required for interaction with SPHK1. Endogenous δ-catenin/NPRAP was co-localized with endogenous SPHK1 and transfected δ-catenin/NPRAP was co-localized with transfected SPHK1 in dissociated rat hippocampal neurons. MDCK (Madin–Darby canine kidney) cells stably expressing δ-catenin/NPRAP contained elevated levels of intracellular SPP. In a purified system δ-catenin/NPRAP stimulated SPHK1 in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, δ-catenin/NPRAP-induced increased cell motility in MDCK cells was completely inhibited by dimethylsphingosine, a specific inhibitor of SPHK1. These results strongly suggest that at least some of δ-catenin/NPRAP functions, including increased cell motility, are mediated by an SPHK–SPP signalling pathway.

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