Improved synthesis of a fluorogenic ceramidase substrate

Zuping Xia, Jeremiah M. Draper, Charles D. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Substantial interest has focused on the roles of sphingolipid metabolizing enzymes in a variety of hyperproliferative and inflammatory diseases. A key family of enzymes involved in these pathologies is the ceramidases. Ceramidases cleave the pro-apoptotic lipid ceramide into a long-chain fatty acid and sphingosine, which can then be further metabolized to the mitogenic and inflammatory lipid sphingosine 1-phosphate. Consequently, development of ceramidase inhibitors would provide useful pharmacologic probes for further studies of sphingolipid metabolism, as well as lead compounds for drug development. This effort has been hampered by the lack of in vitro and cellular ceramidase assays that are amenable to high-throughput screening. Recently, a fluorogenic ceramide analog has been described as a substrate for use in ceramidase assays. The synthesis of this compound has now been substantially improved in terms of both the required effort and the overall yield of the process. Key improvements include: reduction in number of required steps, use of a hydroboration reaction; incorporation of a Mitsunobu reaction; improved acylation by the addition of triethylamine; together providing a fourfold increase in the overall yield. In addition, it has been demonstrated that the ceramide analog can be used in high-throughput assays to identify ceramidase inhibitors. Overall, the improved efficiency in the preparation of this ceramidase substrate should accelerate discovery efforts relating to sphingolipid metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1003-1009
Number of pages7
JournalBioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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