Background: Endogenous and synthetic cannabinoids have been shown to induce cancer cell death through the accumulation of the sphingolipid, ceramide (Cer). Recently, we have demonstrated that Cer accumulation enhances the induction of immunogenic cell death (ICD). Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to demonstrate that (±) 5-epi CP 55,940 (5-epi), a by-product of the chemical synthesis of the synthetic cannabinoid CP 55,940, induces ICD in colorectal cancer (CRC) cells, and that modulation of the sphingolipid metabolic pathway through inhibition of the sphingosine kinases (SphKs) enhances these effects. Methods: A cell culture model system of human CRC cell lines was employed to measure the cell surface and intracellular production of markers of ICD. The effects of 5-epi, alone and in combination with SphK inhibitors, on production of Cer through the de novo sphingolipid synthesis pathway were measured by Liquid Chromatography - Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS/MS)-based sphingolipidomic analysis. Cell surface exposure of calreticulin (ectoCRT), a hallmark of ICD, was measured by flow cytometry. Examination of the effects of 5-epi, alone and in combination with SphK inhibitors, on the intracellular signaling pathway associated with ICD was conducted by immunoblot analysis of human CRC cell lines. Results: Sphingolipidomic analysis indicated that 5-epi induces the de novo sphingolipid synthetic pathway. 5-epi dose dependently induces cell surface exposure of ectoCRT, and inhibition of Cer metabolism through inhibition of the SphKs significantly enhances 5-epi-induced ectoCRT exposure in multiple CRC cell lines. 5-epi induces and SphK inhibition enhances activation of the cell death signaling pathway associated with ICD. Conclusions: This study is the first demonstration that cannabinoids can induce the cell surface expression of ectoCRT, and potentially induce ICD. Moreover, this study reinforces our previous observation of a role for Cer accumulation in the induction of ICD and extends this observation to the cannabinoids, agents not typically associated with ICD. Inhibition of SphKs enhanced the 5-epi-induced signaling pathways leading to ICD and production of ectoCRT. Overexpression of SphK1 has previously been associated with chemotherapy resistance. Thus, targeting the SphKs has the potential to reverse chemotherapy resistance and simultaneously enhance the antitumor immune response through enhancement of ICD induction.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Complementary and alternative medicine
- Pharmacology (medical)