Hepatocytes release ceramide-enriched pro-inflammatory extracellular vesicles in an IRE1 α -dependent manner

Eiji Kakazu, Amy S. Mauer, Meng Yin, Harmeet Malhi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a lipotoxic disease wherein activation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response and macrophage-mediated hepatic inflammation are key pathogenic features. However, the lipid mediators linking these two observations remain elusive. We postulated that ER stress-regulated release of pro-inflammatory extracellular vesicles (EVs) from lipotoxic hepatocytes may be this link. EVs were isolated from cell culture supernatants of hepatocytes treated with palmitate (PA) to induce lipotoxic ER stress, characterized by immunofluorescence, Western blotting, electron microscopy, and nanoparticle tracking analysis. Sphingolipids were measured by tandem mass spectrometry. EVs were employed in macrophage chemotaxis assays. PA induced significant EV release. Because PA activates ER stress, we used KO hepatocytes to demonstrate that PA-induced EV release was mediated by inositol requiring enzyme 1 α (IRE1α )/X-box binding protein-1. PAinduced EVs were enriched in C16:0 ceramide in an IRE1 α -dependent manner, and activated macrophage chemotaxis via formation of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) from C16:0 ceramide. This chemotaxis was blocked by sphingosine kinase inhibitors and S1P receptor inhibitors. Lastly, elevated circulating EVs in experimental and human NASH demonstrated increased C16:0 ceramide. PA induces C16:0 ceramide-enriched EV release in an IRE1α-dependent manner. The ceramide metabolite, S1P, activates macrophage chemotaxis, a potential mechanism for the recruitment of macrophages to the liver under lipotoxic conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-245
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Lipid Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2016


  • Endoplasmic reticulum stress
  • Exosome
  • Inositol requiring enzyme 1 α
  • Lipoinflammation
  • Microvesicle
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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