Novel off-target effect of tamoxifen--inhibition of acid ceramidase activity in cancer cells.
Acid ceramidase (AC), EC 184.108.40.206, a lysosomal enzyme, catalyzes the hydrolysis of ceramide to constituent sphingoid base, sphingosine, and fatty acid. Because AC regulates the levels of pro-apoptotic ceramide and mitogenic sphingosine-1-phosphate, it is considered an apt target in cancer therapy. The present study reveals, for the first time, that the prominent antiestrogen, tamoxifen, is a pan-effective AC inhibitor in the low, single digit micromolar range, as demonstrated in a wide spectrum of cancer cell types, prostate, pancreatic, colorectal, and breast. Prostate cancer cells were chosen for the detailed investigations. Treatment of intact PC-3 cells with tamoxifen produced time- and dose-dependent inhibition of AC activity. Tamoxifen did not impact cell viability nor did it inhibit AC activity in cell-free assays. In pursuit of mechanism of action, we demonstrate that tamoxifen induced time-, as early as 5min, and dose-dependent, as low as 5?M, increases in lysosomal membrane permeability (LMP), and time- and dose-dependent downregulation of AC protein expression. Assessing various protease inhibitors revealed that a cathepsin B inhibitor blocked tamoxifen-elicited downregulation of AC protein; however, this action failed to restore AC activity unless assayed in a cell-free system at pH4.5. In addition, pretreatment with tamoxifen inhibited PC-3 cell migration. Toremifene, an antiestrogen structurally similar to tamoxifen, was also a potent inhibitor of AC activity. This study reveals a new, off-target action of tamoxifen that may be of benefit to enhance anticancer therapies that either incorporate ceramide or target ceramide metabolism.