Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic demyelinating disorder of the CNS characterized by immune cell infiltration across the brain vasculature into the brain, a process not yet fully understood. We previously demonstrated that the sphingolipid metabolism is altered in MS lesions. In particular, acid sphingomyelinase (ASM), a critical enzyme in the production of the bioactive lipid ceramide, is involved in the pathogenesis of MS; however, its role in the brain vasculature remains unknown. Transmigration of T lymphocytes is highly dependent on adhesion molecules in the vasculature such as intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1). In this article, we hypothesize that ASM controls T cell migration by regulating ICAM-1 function. To study the role of endothelial ASM in transmigration, we generated brain endothelial cells lacking ASM activity using a lentiviral shRNA approach. Interestingly, although ICAM-1 expression was increased in cells lacking ASM activity, we measured a significant decrease in T lymphocyte adhesion and consequently transmigration both in static and under flow conditions. As an underlying mechanism, we revealed that upon lack of endothelial ASM activity, the phosphorylation of ezrin was perturbed as well as the interaction between filamin and ICAM-1 upon ICAM-1 clustering. Functionally this resulted in reduced microvilli formation and impaired transendothelial migration of T cells. In conclusion, in this article, we show that ASM coordinates ICAM-1 function in brain endothelial cells by regulating its interaction with filamin and phosphorylation of ezrin. The understanding of these underlying mechanisms of T lymphocyte transmigration is of great value to develop new strategies against MS lesion formation.,
Journal of Immunology
Department of Pediatrics

Pinheiro, M.A.L, Kroon, J, Hoogenboezem, M, Geerts, D, van het Hof, B, van der Pol, S.M.A, … de Vries, H.E. (2016). Acid sphingomyelinase-derived ceramide regulates ICAM-1 function during T cell transmigration across brain endothelial cells. Journal of Immunology, 196(1), 72–79. doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1500702