The reverse activity of human acid ceramidase

Nozomu Okino, Xingxuan He, Shimon Gatt, Konrad Sandhoff, Makoto Ito, Edward H. Schuchman

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120 Scopus citations


An overexpression system was recently developed to produce and purify recombinant, human acid ceramidase. In addition to ceramide hydrolysis, the purified enzyme was able to catalyze ceramide synthesis using [14C]lauric acid and sphingosine as substrates. Herein we report detailed characterization of this acid ceramidase-associated "reverse activity" and provide evidence that this reaction occurs in situ as well as in vitro. The pH optimum of the reverse reaction was ∼5.5, as compared with ∼4.5 for the hydrolysis reaction. Non-ionic detergents and zinc cations inhibited the activity, whereas most other cations were stimulatory. Of note, sphingomyelin also was very inhibitory toward this reaction, whereas the anionic lipids, phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine, were stimulatory. Of various sphingosine stereoisomers tested in the reverse reaction, only the natural, D-erythro form could efficiently serve as a substrate. Using D-erythro-sphingosine and lauric acid as substrates, the reaction followed normal Michaelis-Menten kinetics. The Km and Vmax values toward sphingosine were 23.75 μM and 208.3 pmol/μg/h, respectively, whereas for lauric acid they were 73.76 μM and 232.5 pmol/μg/h, respectively. Importantly, the reverse activity was reduced in cell lysates from a Farber disease patient to the same extent as the acid ceramidase activity. Furthermore, when 12-(N-methyl-N-(7-nitrobenz-2-oxa-1,3-diazol-4-yl)) (NBD)-conjugated lauric acid and sphingosine were added to cultured lymphoblasts from a Farber disease patient in the presence of fumonisin B (1), the conversion to NBD-ceramide was reduced ∼30% when compared with normal cells. These data provide important new information on human acid ceramidase and further document its central role in sphingolipid metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29948-29953
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number32
StatePublished - 8 Aug 2003


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