Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 64, Issue 17, pp 2270–2284 | Cite as

The metabolism and function of sphingolipids and glycosphingolipids



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 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological ChemistryWeizmann Institute of ScienceRehovotIsrael

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