Ceramides and other bioactive sphingolipid backbones in health and disease: lipidomic analysis, metabolism and roles in membrane structure, dynamics, signaling and autophagy.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

Sphingolipids are comprised of a backbone sphingoid base that may be phosphorylated, acylated, glycosylated, bridged to various headgroups through phosphodiester linkages, or otherwise modified. Organisms usually contain large numbers of sphingolipid subspecies and knowledge about the types and amounts is imperative because they influence membrane structure, interactions with the extracellular matrix and neighboring cells, vesicular traffic and the formation of specialized structures such as phagosomes and autophagosomes, as well as participate in intracellular and extracellular signaling. Fortunately, "sphingolipidomic" analysis is becoming feasible (at least for important subsets such as all of the backbone "signaling" subspecies: ceramides, ceramide 1-phosphates, sphingoid bases, sphingoid base 1-phosphates, inter alia) using mass spectrometry, and these profiles are revealing many surprises, such as that under certain conditions cells contain significant amounts of "unusual" species: N-mono-, di-, and tri-methyl-sphingoid bases (including N,N-dimethylsphingosine); 3-ketodihydroceramides; N-acetyl-sphingoid bases (C2-ceramides); and dihydroceramides, in the latter case, in very high proportions when cells are treated with the anticancer drug fenretinide (4-hydroxyphenylretinamide). The elevation of DHceramides by fenretinide is befuddling because the 4,5-trans-double bond of ceramide has been thought to be required for biological activity; however, DHceramides induce autophagy and may be important in the regulation of this important cellular process. The complexity of the sphingolipidome is hard to imagine, but one hopes that, when partnered with other systems biology approaches, the causes and consequences of the complexity will explain how these intriguing compounds are involved in almost every aspect of cell behavior and the malfunctions of many diseases.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Zheng, W; Kollmeyer, J; Symolon, H; Momin, A; Munter, E; Wang, E; Kelly, S; Allegood, JC; Liu, Y; Peng, Q; Ramaraju, H; Sullards, MC; Cabot, M; Merrill, AH

Published Date

  • December 2006

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 1758 / 12

Start / End Page

  • 1864 - 1884

PubMed ID

  • 17052686

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0006-3002

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.bbamem.2006.08.009


  • eng

Conference Location

  • Netherlands