The bioactive sphingolipid ceramide affects immune responses although its effect on antigen (Ag) processing and delivery by HLA class II to CD4+T-cells remains unclear. Therefore, we examined the actions of a novel cell-permeable acid ceramidase (AC) inhibitor [(1R,2R) N myristoylamino-(4′-nitrophenyl)-propandiol-1,3] on antigen presentation and inflammatory cytokine production by Ag-presenting cells (APCs) such as B-cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells. We found that AC inhibition in APCs perturbed Ag-processing and presentation via HLA-DR4 (MHC class II) proteins as measured by coculture assay and T-cell production of IL-2. Mass spectral analyses showed that B13 treatment significantly raised levels of four types of ceramides in human B-cells. B13 treatment did not alter Ag internalization and class II protein expression, but significantly inhibited lysosomal cysteinyl cathepsins (B, S and L) and thiol-reductase (GILT), HLA class II Ag-processing, and generation of functional class II-peptide complexes. Ex vivo Ag presentation assays showed that inhibition of AC impaired primary and recall CD4+T-cell responses and cytokine production in response against type II collagen. Further, B13 delayed onset and reduced severity of inflamed joints and cytokine production in the collagen-induced arthritis mouse model in vivo. These findings suggest that inhibition of AC in APCs may dysregulate endolysosomal proteases and HLA class II-associated self-antigen presentation to CD4+T-cells, attenuating inflammatory cytokine production and suppressing host autoimmune responses.
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