Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 64, Issue 17, pp 2270-2284

First online:

The metabolism and function of sphingolipids and glycosphingolipids

  • S. LahiriAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Chemistry, Weizmann Institute of Science
  • , A. H. FutermanAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Chemistry, Weizmann Institute of Science Email author 

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Sphingolipids and glycosphingolipids are emerging as major players in many facets of cell physiology and pathophysiology. We now present an overview of sphingolipid biochemistry and physiology, followed by a brief presentation of recent advances in translational research related to sphingolipids. In discussing sphingolipid biochemistry, we focus on the structure of sphingolipids, and their biosynthetic pathways – the recent identification of most of the enzymes in this pathway has led to significant advances and better characterization of a number of the biosynthetic steps, and the relationship between them. We then discuss some roles of sphingolipids in cell physiology, particularly those of ceramide and sphingosine-1-phosphate, and mention current views about how these lipids act in signal transduction pathways. We end with a discussion of sphingolipids and glycosphingolipids in the etiology and pathology of a number of diseases, such as cancer, immunity, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, diabetes, and sepsis, areas in which sphingolipids are beginning to take a central position, even though many of the details remain to be elucidated.


Sphingolipid glycosphingolipid ceramide sphingosine-1-phosphate apoptosis cancer