Effects of ceramide inhibition on experimental radiation-induced oral mucositis

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ObjectiveOral mucositis (OM) is a common toxicity of ionizing radiation (IR), which is used as treatment for head and neck cancer. Ceramide-mediated apoptosis may contribute to the pathogenesis of mucositis. In response to IR or other cellular stresses, ceramide production occurs either by the hydrolytic action of sphingomyelinase (SMase) or de novo via ceramide synthase.Study designMale golden Syrian hamsters (10 per group) exposed to a single dose of 40 Gy ionizing radiation (day 0) were treated with subcutaneous 0.2 mL injections of either neutral SMase, acidic SMase, or ceramide synthase inhibitor (5 mmol/L glutathione, 5 μmol/L desipramine, or 1 μmol/L fumonisin B1, respectively) from day −1 to day 16. A control group was treated with saline. Two blinded examiners assessed clinical OM development from day 6 to day 26. Two animals per group were killed on days 3, 10, and 16 for immunohistochemical detection of ceramide expression in both the epithelium and in the connective tissue.ResultsThe group exposed to fumonisin B1 exhibited a statistically significant reduction in mean daily weight gain, mean mucositis score, duration of mucositis, and expression of ceramide in the epithelium on day 3 as well as in the connective tissue on days 10 and 16 relative to control. Immunohistologic analysis also revealed significant differences in ceramide expression on days 3 and 16 for animals treated with glutathione in both the epithelial and connective tissue when compared to the control.ConclusionsThese results suggest that IR triggers early de novo ceramide production and that inhibition of this process attenuates OM on a clinical level.

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