OBJECTIVES: Natural killer T (NKT) cells are unique T lymphocytes that recognize glycolipid antigen and produce various cytokines. NKT cells accelerate atherosclerosis in mice. Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is a bioactive sphingolipid and regulates T-lymphocyte trafficking. We aimed to determine the effects of S1P on the production of proinflammatory cytokine, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, in NKT cell hybridomas and mouse NKT cells. MATERIALS AND METHODS: NKT cell hybridomas and sorted mouse NKT cells were stimulated with S1P and α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer), the major ligand to produce cytokines in NKT cells. TNF-α mRNA expression and protein production were determined by real-time PCR and ELISA, respectively. Cell migration was assayed using chemotaxicell. Plasma S1P was measured using HPLC. RESULTS: Hybridomas expressed S1P receptors, S1P1, S1P2, and S1P4. S1P and α-GalCer increased TNF-α mRNA expression and protein production. S1P enhanced TNF-α induction by α-GalCer. S1P receptor antagonists decreased the TNF-α mRNA expression induced by S1P. FTY720, an immunosuppressive S1P receptor modulator, also decreased the TNF-α mRNA expression. The migration of NKT cell hybridomas was increased by S1P. FTY720 reduced the migration induced by S1P. S1P also increased the TNF-α mRNA expression in mouse NKT cells. Plasma TNF-α levels in patients with high plasma S1P (≥ 500 nmol/l) were higher than those in patients with low S1P (<500 nmol/l). CONCLUSION: S1P binds to S1P receptors in NKT cells and enhances TNF-α production. TNF-α overproduction may induce atherogenic inflammatory responses. S1P may serve as a novel therapeutic target for amelioration of vascular inflammatory diseases.
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