Vitamin D metabolites activate the sphingomyelin pathway and induce death of glioblastoma cells

L. Magrassi, L. Adorni, G. Montorfano, S. Rapelli, G. Butti, B. Berra, G. Milanesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 was previously shown to induce cell death in brain tumour cell lines when added to the medium at micromolar concentration. In this paper we show that Cholecalciferol, a poor ligand of the vitamin D receptor, also induces cell death of HU197 human glioblastoma cell line and early passages cultures derived from a recurrent human glioblastoma. This finding suggests that the effects of vitamin D metabolites on brain tumour cells are at least partially independent from the activation of the classic nuclear receptor pathway. Vitamin D metabolites have been shown to activate the sphingomyelin pathway inducing an increase in cellular ceramide concentration. We determined the levels of sphingomyelin ceramide and ganglioside GD3 in Hu197 cells after treatment with cholecalciferol. A significant increase in ceramide concentration and a proportional decrease in sphingomyelin was already present after 6 hours of cholecalciferol treatment when no morphological changes were visible in the cultures. Treatment with ceramides (N-acetyl-sphingosine or natural ceramide from bovine brain) of the same cells also induces cell death. Similarly, treatment of the same cells with bacterial Sphingomyelinase also results in cell death. The demonstration of an increase in intracellular ceramide after cholecalciferol treatment and the ability of ceramide to induce cell death suggest that the sphingomyelin pathway may be implicated in the effect of vitamin D metabolites on human glioblastoma cells. Inhibition of ceramide biosynthesis by fumonisin B1 treatment did not alter the dose response curve of HU197 cells to cholecalciferol. Insensitivity to fumonisin B1 together with a decrease in sphingomyelin content after cholecalciferol treatment indicate that activation of sphingomyelinase should be responsible for the increase in intracellular ceramide concentration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-714
Number of pages8
JournalActa Neurochirurgica
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Brain rumours
  • Ceramide
  • Sphingomyelin
  • Vitamin D

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Vitamin D metabolites activate the sphingomyelin pathway and induce death of glioblastoma cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this