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Complete Acid Ceramidase ablation prevents cancer-initiating cell formation in melanoma cells


Acid ceramidase (AC) is a lysosomal cysteine hydrolase that catalyzes the conversion of ceramide into fatty acid and sphingosine. This reaction lowers intracellular ceramide levels and concomitantly generates sphingosine used for sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) production. Since increases in ceramide and consequent decreases of S1P reduce proliferation of various cancers, AC might offer a new target for anti-tumor therapy. Here we used CrispR-Cas9-mediated gene editing to delete the gene encoding for AC, ASAH1, in human A375 melanoma cells. ASAH1-null clones show significantly greater accumulation of long-chain saturated ceramides that are substrate for AC. As seen with administration of exogenous ceramide, AC ablation blocks cell cycle progression and accelerates senescence. Importantly, ASAH1-null cells also lose the ability to form cancer-initiating cells and to undergo self-renewal, which is suggestive of a key role for AC in maintaining malignancy and self-renewal of invasive melanoma cells. The results suggest that AC inhibitors might find therapeutic use as adjuvant therapy for advanced melanoma.

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