An oncogenic role for sphingosine kinase 2

Heidi A. Neubauer, Duyen H. Pham, Julia R. Zebol, Paul A B Moretti, Amanda L. Peterson, Tamara M. Leclercq, Huasheng Chan, Jason A. Powell, Melissa R. Pitman, Michael S. Samuel, Claudine S. Bonder, Darren J. Creek, Briony L. Gliddon, Stuart M. Pitson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


While both human sphingosine kinases (SK1 and SK2) catalyze the generation of the pleiotropic signaling lipid sphingosine 1-phosphate, these enzymes appear to be functionally distinct. SK1 has well described roles in promoting cell survival, proliferation and neoplastic transformation. The roles of SK2, and its contribution to cancer, however, are much less clear. Some studies have suggested an anti-proliferative/pro-apoptotic function for SK2, while others indicate it has a pro-survival role and its inhibition can have anti-cancer effects. Our analysis of gene expression data revealed that SK2 is upregulated in many human cancers, but only to a small extent (up to 2.5-fold over normal tissue). Based on these findings, we examined the effect of different levels of cellular SK2 and showed that high-level overexpression reduced cell proliferation and survival, and increased cellular ceramide levels. In contrast, however, low-level SK2 overexpression promoted cell survival and proliferation, and induced neoplastic transformation in vivo. These findings coincided with decreased nuclear localization and increased plasma membrane localization of SK2, as well as increases in extracellular S1P formation. Hence, we have shown for the first time that SK2 can have a direct role in promoting oncogenesis, supporting the use of SK2-specific inhibitors as anti-cancer agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64886-64899
Number of pages14
Issue number40
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 2016


  • Neoplastic transformation
  • Oncogenesis
  • Proliferation
  • Sphingosine kinase 2
  • Tumorigenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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