Sphingosine-1-phosphate is released by cerebellar astrocytes in response to bFGF and induces astrocyte proliferation through Gi-protein-coupled receptors

Rosaria Bassi, Viviana Anelli, Paola Giussani, Guido Tettamanti, Paola Viani, Laura Riboni

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The mitogenic role of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) and its involvement in basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF)-induced proliferation were examined in primary cultures of cerebellar astrocytes. Exposure to bFGF resulted in a rapid increase of extracellular S1P formation, bFGF inducing astrocytes to release S1P, but not sphingosine kinase, in the extracellular milieu. The SK inhibitor N,N-dimethylsphingosine inhibited S1P release as well as bFGF-induced growth stimulation. S1P application in quiescent astrocytes caused a dose-dependent increase in DNA synthesis. This gliotrophic effect was induced by a brief exposure to low nanomolar S1P, mimicked by the S1P receptor agonist dihydro-S1P, and inhibited by pertussis toxin (PTX), an inactivator of Gi/Go-proteins. S1P also induced activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase that was inhibited again by PTX. Moreover, the S1P lyase inhibitor 4-deoxypyridoxine induced the cellular accumulation of S1P but did not affect DNA synthesis. These results support the view that S1P exerted a mitogenic effect on cerebellar astrocytes extracellularly, most likely through cell surface S1P receptors. In agreement, mRNAs for S1P1, S1P2, and S1P3 receptors are expressed in cerebellar astrocytes (Anelli et al., 2005. J Neurochem 92:1204-1215). Ceramide, a negative regulator of astrocyte proliferation and down-regulated by bFGF (Riboni et al., 2002. Cerebellum 1:129-135), efficiently inhibited S1P-induced proliferation. The S1P action appears to be part of an autocrine/ paracrine cascade stimulated by bFGF and, together with ceramide down-regulation, essential for astrocytes to respond to bFGF. The results suggest that S1P and bFGF/S1P may play an important role in physiopathological glial proliferation, such as brain development, reactive gliosis and brain tumor formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-630
Number of pages10
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Apr 15 2006


  • Astroglia
  • Cell growth
  • Extracellular signal-regulated kinase
  • Sphingosine kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

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