Characterization of the sphingomyelin content of isolated pancreatic islets. Evaluation of the role of sphingomyelin hydrolysis in the action of interleukin-1 to induce islet overproduction of nitric oxide

Guim Kwon, Alan Bohrer, Xianlin Han, John A. Corbett, Zhongmin Ma, Richard W. Gross, Michael L. McDaniel, John Turk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


Inflammatory cytokines may participate in the destruction of pancreatic islets during the pathogenesis of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and the cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) strongly inhibits insulin secretion from rat pancreatic islets by a process which involves induction of expression of the inducible isoform of nitric oxide synthase and the overproduction of nitric oxide. The signaling events between IL-1 receptor occupancy and induction of nitric oxide synthase in rat islets involve activation of the transcriptional activator NFκB. Because sphingomyelin hydrolysis has been implicated as a signaling process both in NFκB activation and in IL-1 action in some cells, we have examined the potential involvement of sphingomyelin hydrolysis in the induction of islet nitric oxide overproduction by IL-1. Rat islet sphingomyelin pools were radiolabeled with [3H]choline, and sphingomyelin was then isolated by normal phase HPLC. Electrospray ionization-mass spectrometric analysis revealed islet sphingomyelin consists of at least 4 distinct molecular species, and the most abundant of them contained sphingosine as the long chain base and a residue of palmitic acid as the fatty acid substituent. Molecular species containing residues of stearic acid and arachidic acid were also observed. Neither interleukin-1 nor tumor necrosis factor-α was found to induce hydrolysis of islet sphingomyelin species, and neither an exogenous, cell-permeant ceramide species (N-acetyl-D-sphingosine) nor exogenous sphingomyelinase mimicked or potentiated the effect of IL-1 to increase rat islet nitric oxide generation, as reflected by nitrite production. Similar findings were obtained with RINm5F insulinoma cells and with mouse pancreatic islets. These findings provide the first information on the molecular species of sphingomyelin in pancreatic islets and suggest that sphingomyelin hydrolysis is not involved in the signaling pathway whereby IL-1 induces the overproduction of nitric oxide by pancreatic islets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Lipids and Lipid Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996



  • Ceramide
  • Nitric oxide
  • Pancreatic islet
  • Sphingomyelin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology

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