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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Bioactive Properties of Sphingosine and Structurally Related Compounds - Chapter in Bell, R.M., ED., Handbook of Lipid Research: Lipid Second Messengers

item Merrill Jr, Alfred - BIOCHEM, EMORY UNIV
item Liotta, D - CHEM, EMORY UNIV
item Riley, Ronald

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: July 1, 1997
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: All animal and plant tissues contain many different types of fats. Until recently the least studied group of fats was the sphingolipids. The name sphingolipid was given to these fats because, like the Egyptian Sphinx, they are very mysterious. Recently, the sphingolipids have become the focus of an intense research effort to understand their role in nutrition and disease. It is now clear that sphingolipids are important dietary fat and that changes in the way sphingolipids are made and broken down dramatically affect the way cells behave in both plants and animals. Sphingolipids are also known to play an important role in the onset and development of diseases including liver disease, kidney disease, neurological disorders, and cancer. There are also chemicals produced by molds which occur on plants, including corn, that have been shown to alter the formation of sphingolipids in both plants and animals. Thus, plant diseases caused by some molds may be mediated by changes in sphingolipids induced by the mold toxins. This information opens the door to development of strategies to prevent certain plant diseases by preventing the changes in sphingolipids.

Technical Abstract: Although sphingosine was discovered over 100 years ago, there was relatively little interest in long-chain base backbones of sphingolipids until they were found to be potent inhibitors of protein kinase C. This raised the possibility that cells utilize hydrolysis products of sphingolipids to regulate cell behavior in analogy to the lipid second messengers that are derived from phosphoglycerolipids. Subsequent studies have uncovered other systems that are affected by sphingosine, and have found that N-acylsphingosines and sphingosine 1-phosphate, and probably other metabolites are involved in cell signaling. Furthermore, a number of potent mycotoxins have recently been shown to act via disruption of long-chain base metabolism, and long chain bases have been directly linked to the etiology of diseases that range in symptoms from neurotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, nephrotoxicity, and immunotoxicity to cancer.

Last Modified: 4/21/2015