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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Riley, Ronald
item Liotta, D
item Merrill Jr, A

Submitted to: Proceedings of the Nutrition Society of Australia
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/26/1996
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Sphingolipids are a group of fats which are present in all animal and plant cells. Until recently, very little was known about these fats. Recently, it has been found that these fats play a very important role in how cells control their growth and how abnormal cells are selected for elimination. Many of the recent advances in our knowledge about this group of fats has come about by the use of toxic chemicals which are produced by molds commonly found on corn and other agriculturally important commodities. These toxic chemicals are able to block specific mold toxins and plants which can be infected by the molds, the changes in these fats are associated with specific diseases. Thus, the discovery of these mold toxins has revealed the important role of these fats in the disease process and has also revealed potential targets for improving animal and plant resistance to the toxins.

Technical Abstract: Relatively little is known about the importance of sphingolipids as components of the diet. Research on the role of complex sphingolipids, free sphingoid bases, and sphingolipid degradation products in signal transduction pathways has been rapidly expanding our understanding of these lipids. In addition to the newly discovered role of ceramide as an intracellular second messenger for IL1-beta, TNF-alpha and other agonists, sphingosine, sphingosine 1-phosphate and other sphingolipid metabolites have been demonstrated to modulate cellular calcium homeostatis, cell cycle progression, and apoptosis. Alteration of sphingolipid metabolism using synthetic and naturally occurring inhibitors of key enzymes in the biosynthetic pathways is aiding the characterization of the cellular processes regulated by sphingolipids and also is revealing a role for disruption of sphingoid metabolism in the pathophysiology of disease. Several food-borne fungal metabolites have been shown to inhibit sphingolipid biosynthesis and/or turnover. Activation or inhibition of sphingolipid pathways may be a common mechanism of toxin action.

Last Modified: 07/27/2017
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