Plasma Membrane Subdomain Compartmentalization Contributes to Distinct Mechanisms of Ceramide Action on Insulin Signaling

  1. Eric Hajduch1,2,3
  1. 1Centre de Recherche des Cordeliers, INSERM, UMR-S 872, Paris, France;
  2. 2Université Pierre et Marie Curie–Paris 6, UMR-S 872, Paris, France;
  3. 3Université Paris Descartes, UMR-S 872, Paris, France;
  4. 4Division of Endocrinology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  1. Corresponding author: Eric Hajduch, eric.hajduch{at}


OBJECTIVE Ceramide is now recognized as a negative regulator of insulin signaling by impairing protein kinase B (PKB)/Akt activation. In different cells, two distinct mechanisms have been proposed to mediate ceramide inhibition of PKB/Akt: one involving atypical protein kinase C zeta (PKCζ) and the other the protein phosphatase-2 (PP2A). We hypothesized that ceramide action through PKCζ or PP2A might depend on plasma membrane (PM) structural organization and especially on caveolin-enriched domain (CEM) abundance.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS We have used different PKCζ mutant constructs or the PP2A inhibitor, okadaic acid (OKA), to selectively inhibit PKCζ- and PP2A-dependent pathways in cells expressing different caveolin-1 levels and evaluated the impact of insulin and ceramide on PKB/Akt activity in different PM subdomains.

RESULTS Although the PKCζ-mediated negative effect of ceramide on insulin-stimulated PKB/Akt was dominant in adipocytes, a ceramide action through PP2A outside CEMs, prevented by OKA, was also unraveled. To test the importance of CEM to direct ceramide action through the PKCζ pathway, we treated 3T3-L1 preadipocytes devoid of CEMs with ceramide and we saw a shift of the lipid-negative action on PKB/Akt to a PP2A-mediated mechanism. In fibroblasts with low CEM abundance, the ceramide-activated PP2A pathway dominated, but could be shifted to a ceramide-activated PKCζ pathway after caveolin-1 overexpression.

CONCLUSIONS Our results show that ceramide can switch from a PKCζ-dependent mechanism to a PP2A pathway, acting negatively on PKB/Akt, and hence revealing a critical role of CEMs of the PM in this process.


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    • Received June 17, 2009.
    • Accepted November 23, 2009.
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  1. Diabetes vol. 59 no. 3 600-610
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