Ectopic accumulation of ceramide in cardiomyocytes modulates alcoholic cardiomyopathy via the TLR4-dependent pathway

Cui Wang, Songtao Li, Qingsheng Liu, Qianyu Qian, Ai Fu, Lin Chen, Lei Zhang, Toshinobu Suzaki, Zhi Ling Yu, Xiaobing Dou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims

Excessive alcohol consumption predisposes drinkers to develop alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Although cardiomyocyte loss is the hallmark of cardiomyopathy, the underlying mechanism remains elusive. This study examined the potential mechanism of alcohol-induced cardiomyocyte death in a mouse model of alcoholic cardiomyopathy. 


We established the alcoholic cardiomyopathy mouse model using C57BL/6J mice and confirmed it via echocardiography and histological examination. The cardiac ceramide content and profile were analyzed with a triple-quadrupole mass spectrometer. The molecular mechanism underlying the accumulation of ceramide due to chronic alcohol consumption and ceramide-induced cardiomyocyte death were investigated by in vivo and in vitro models. Finally, we established a TLR4 mutation model to explore the function of TLR4 in CH3/HeJ mice. 


Cardiac lipotoxicity that followed alcohol exposure resulted mainly in C16:0-, C18:0-, and C24:1-ceramide aggregation. Genes encoding the sphingosine hydrolysis enzymes (SMPD1 and SMPD2) rather than de novo synthetic biomarkers were markedly upregulated. Exogenous ceramide mimics (C6-ceramide) werenderlying the accumulation of ceramide observed to cause H9C2 cardiomyocyte-like cell death, which was consistent with results under palmate acid (PA) treatment. As a ceramide precursor, PA induces intracellular ceramide generation through TLR4 signaling, which can be abolished by an inhibitor of ceramide synthesis. Furthermore, mechanistic investigations demonstrated that pharmacological or genetic inhibition of TLR4 attenuated PA-induced cell death and corresponding ceramide production. Moreover, global mutation of TLR4 in CH3/HeJ mice significantly reduced the accumulation of C24:0, C24:1, OH_C24:1, and total ceramide following alcohol challenge. 


Our findings demonstrate that ceramide accumulation plays a crucial role in alcoholic cardiomyopathy, effects that are partially mediated through the TLR4-dependent pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011-1022
Number of pages12
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

User-Defined Keywords

  • alcoholic cardiomyopathy
  • cell death
  • ceramide
  • TLR4


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