We previously reported the purification, molecular cloning, and characterization of a neutral ceramidase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain AN17 (Okino, N., Tani, M., Imayama, S., and Ito, M. (1998) J. Biol. Chem. 273, 14368-14373; Okino, N., Ichinose, S., Omori, A., Imayama, S., Nakamura, T., and Ito, M. (1999) J. Biol. Chem. 274, 36616-36622). Interestingly, the gene encoding the enzyme is adjacent to that encoding hemolytic phospholipase C (plcH) in the genome of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is a well known pathogen for opportunistic infections. Wereport here that simultaneous production of PlcH and ceramidase was induced by several lipids and PlcH-induced hemolysis was significantly enhanced by the action of the ceramidase. When the strain was cultured with sphingomyelin or phosphatidylcholine, production of both enzymes drastically increased, causing the increase of hemolytic activity in the cellfree culture supernatant. Ceramide and sphingosine were also effective in promoting the production of ceramidase but not that of PlcH. Furthermore, we found that the hemolytic activity of a Bacillus cereus sphingomyelinase was significantly enhanced by addition of a recombinant Pseudomonas ceramidase. TLC analysis of the erythrocytes showed that ceramide produced from sphingomyelin by the sphingomyelinase was partly converted to sphingosine by the ceramidase. A ceramidase-null mutant strain caused much less hemolysis of sheep erythrocytes than did the wild-type strain. Sphingosine was detected in the erythrocytes co-cultured with the wild-type strain but not the mutant strain. Finally, we found that the enhancement of PlcH-induced hemolysis by the ceramidase occurred in not only sheep but also human erythrocytes. These results may indicate that the ceramidase enhances the PlcH-induced cytotoxicity and provide newinsightsintotheroleofsphingolipid-degradingenzymesinthe pathogenicity of P. aeruginosa.
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