In eukaryotic cells, the content of sphingoid long-chain bases (LCBs) is generally much lower than that of complex sphingolipids and ceramides, and the quantitative balance of these metabolites in cells is tightly regulated. In the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, it has been demonstrated that exogenously added phytosphingosine (PHS) causes a strong growth defect in tryptophan auxotrophic cells, due to delayed uptake of tryptophan from the culture medium; however, the growth inhibitory effect of dihydrosphingosine (DHS) is less than that of PHS in tryptophan auxotrophic cells. Here, we found that, in tryptophan-prototrophic yeast cells, exogenously added DHS is much more toxic than PHS. Exogenously added DHS is converted to PHS, Cers, or LCB 1-phosphates through the action of sphingolipid C4-hydroxylase, Cer synthases, or LCB kinases, respectively; however, suppression of further metabolism of DHS in cells resulted in an increase in the growth inhibitory activity of exogenously added DHS, indicating that DHS itself is causative of the cytotoxicity. The cytotoxicity of DHS was not mediated by Pkh1/2, Sch9, and Ypk1/2 kinases, intracellular targets of LCBs. DHS treatment caused an increase in mitochondria-derived reactive oxygen species, and the cytotoxic effect of DHS was suppressed by depletion of mitochondrial DNA or antioxidant N-acetylcysteine, but enhanced by deletion of SOD1 and SOD2 encoding superoxide dismutases. Thus, collectively, these results indicated that intracellularly accumulated DHS has mitochondrial reactive oxygen species-mediated cytotoxic activity, which is much more potent than that of PHS.
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