Novel ceramide analogues display selective cytotoxicity in drug-resistant breast tumor cell lines compared to normal breast epithelial cells.

K. W. Crawford, R. Bittman, J. Chun, H. S. Byun, W. D. Bowen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The sphingolipid ceramide is involved in diverse cell signaling pathways related to proliferation and differentiation. Elevated ceramide also triggers apoptosis. Synthetic ceramide derivatives have been shown to be cytotoxic to tumors, yet few studies have evaluated whether cytotoxicity of synthetic ceramides is selective for tumor cells. We have evaluated the cytotoxic potency of several novel ceramide analogues in the drug-resistant breast tumor cell lines, SKBr3 and MCF-7/Adr, and compared their cytotoxicity in normal breast epithelial cells. Cytotoxicity was assessed using release of lactate dehydrogenase into the culture medium. (2S, 3S)-3-(6'-Dodecylpyridin-2'-yl)-2-butanoylamidopropane-1,3-diol (pyridine-C4-ceramide) produced non-selective cytotoxicity across the three cell types (EC50= 12.8-16.7 microM, at 24 hr). However, 2S,5R-2-(octanoylamido-(3E))-octadecene-1,5-diol (5R-OH-3E-C8-ceramide), (2S,3R)-2-(N-adamantoyl)-(4E)-octadecen-1,3-diol (adamantyl-ceramide), and (2S,3R)-3-(3'-dodecylphenyl)-2-butanoylamidopropane-1,3-diol (benzene-C4-ceramide) exhibited increased cytotoxicity in the tumor cell lines compared to the normal breast epithelial cells. The EC50 values (microM) at 24 hr for these compounds in SKBr3 cells, MCF-7/Adr cells, and normal breast epithelial cells, respectively, were as follows: 5R-OH-3E-C8-ceramide, 18.3, 21.2 and 58.7; adamantyl-ceramide, 10.9, 24.9 and >100; benzene-C4-ceramide, 18.9, 45.5 and >100. At a concentration of 30 microM, the fold increase in cytotoxicity in breast tumor cell lines compared with normal breast epithelial cells was as follows: 5R-OH-3E-C8-ceramide, 23.7 and 19; adamantyl-ceramide, 11.2 and 10.3 and benzene-C4-ceramide, 79.3 and 77.2, for SKBr3 and MCF-7/Adr cells, respectively. Possible mechanisms accounting for selectivity are discussed. Ceramide analogues with relatively selective toxicity against tumor cells may have potential as therapeutic agents. Elucidating the mechanisms of selective cytotoxicity could identify novel targets that may lead to development of anti-neoplastic agents with a higher therapeutic index.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1017-1023
Number of pages7
JournalCellular and molecular biology (Noisy-le-Grand, France)
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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