Sphingolipids are a family of lipids that regulate the cell cycle, differentiation and cell death. Sphingolipids are known to play a role in the induction of apoptosis, but a role for these lipids in necroptosis is largely unknown. Necroptosis is a programmed form of cell death that, unlike apoptosis, does not require ATP. Necroptosis can be induced under a variety of conditions, including nutrient deprivation and plays a major role in ischaemia/reperfusion injury to organs. Sphingolipids play a role in ischaemia/reperfusion injury in several organs. Thus, we hypothesized that sphingolipids mediate nutrient-deprivation-induced necroptosis. To address this, we utilized mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEFs) treated with 2-deoxyglucose (2DG) and antimycin A (AA) to inhibit glycolysis and mitochondrial electron transport. 2DG/AA treatment of MEFs induced necroptosis as it was receptor- interacting protein (RIP)-1/3 kinase-dependent and caspase-independent. Ceramides, sphingosine (Sph) and sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) were increased following 2DG/AA treatment. Cells lacking neutral ceramidase (nCDase−/−) were protected from 2DG/AA. Although nCDase−/− cells generated ceramides following 2DG/AA treatment, they did not generate Sph or S1P. This protection was stimulus-independent as nCDase−/− cells were also protected from endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stressors [tunicamycin (TN) or thapsigargin (TG)]. nCDase−/− MEFs had higher autophagic flux and mitophagy than wild-type (WT) MEFs and inhibition of autophagy sensitized them to necroptosis. These data indicate that loss of nCDase protects cells from nutrient- deprivation-induced necroptosis via autophagy, and clearance of damaged mitochondria. Results suggest that nCDase is a mediator of necroptosis and might be a novel therapeutic target for protection from ischaemic injury.

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