Acid sphingomyelinase-dependent autophagic degradation of GPX4 is critical for the execution of ferroptosis

Faisal Thayyullathil, Anees Rahman Cheratta, Ameer Alakkal, Karthikeyan Subburayan, Siraj Pallichankandy, Yusuf A. Hannun, Sehamuddin Galadari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ferroptosis is a type of regulated cell death characterized by ROS accumulation and devastating lipid peroxidation (LPO). The role of acid sphingomyelinase (ASM), a key enzyme in sphingolipid metabolism, in the induction of apoptosis has been studied; however, to date its role in ferroptosis is unclear. In this study, we report that ASM plays a hitherto unanticipated role in promoting ferroptosis. Mechanistically, Erastin (Era) treatment results in the activation of ASM and generation of ceramide, which are required for the Era-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and LPO. Inhibition of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase (NADPH oxidase) or removal of intracellular ROS, significantly reduced Era-induced ASM activation, suggesting that NADPH oxidase-derived ROS regulated ASM-initiated redox signaling in a positive feedback manner. Moreover, ASM-mediated activation of autophagy plays a critical role in ferroptosis inducers (FINs)-induced glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) degradation and ferroptosis activation. Genetic or pharmacological inhibition of ASM diminishes Era-induced features of autophagy, GPX4 degradation, LPO, and subsequent ferroptosis. Importantly, genetic activation of ASM increases ferroptosis in cancer cells induced by various FINs. Collectively, these findings reveal that ASM plays a novel role in ferroptosis that could be exploited to improve pathological conditions that link to ferroptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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