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J Soc Biol. 2003;197(3):217-21.

[Sphingolipid-mediated apoptotic signaling pathways].

[Article in French]

Author information

  • 1Laboratoire de Biochimie IV Maladies Métaboliques et INSERM Unité 466, Institut Louis Bugnard, CHU Rangueil, 31059 Toulouse, France.


Various sphingolipids are being viewed as bioactive molecules and/or second messengers. Among them, ceramide (or N-acylsphingosine) and sphingosine generally behave as pro-apoptotic mediators. Indeed, ceramide mediates the death signal initiated by numerous stress agents which either stimulate its de novo synthesis or activate sphingomyelinases that release ceramide from sphingomyelin. For instance, the early generation of ceramide promoted by TNF is mediated by a neutral sphingomyelinase the activity of which is regulated by the FAN adaptor protein, thereby controlling caspase activation and the cell death programme. In addition, the activity of this neutral sphingomyelinase is negatively modulated by caveolin, a major constituent of some membrane microdomains. The enzyme sphingosine kinase also plays a crucial role in apoptosis signalling by regulating the intracellular levels of two sphingolipids having opposite effects, namely the pro-apoptotic sphingosine and the anti-apoptotic sphingosine 1-phosphate molecule. Ceramide and sphingosine metabolism therefore appears as a pivotal regulatory pathway in the determination of cell fate.

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