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Eur J Pharmacol. 2008 May 13;585(2-3):292-302. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2008.02.089. Epub 2008 Mar 15.

Sphingolipid signalling in the cardiovascular system: good, bad or both?

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy, Academic Medical Center, Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Sphingolipids are biologically active lipids that play important roles in various cellular processes and the sphingomyelin metabolites ceramide, sphingosine and sphingosine-1-phosphate can act as signalling molecules in most cell types. With the recent development of the immunosuppressant drug FTY720 (Fingolimod) which after phosphorylation in vivo acts as a sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor agonist, research on the role of sphingolipids in the immune and other organ systems was triggered enormously. Since it was reported that FTY720 induced a modest, but significant transient decrease in heart rate in animals and humans, the question was raised which pharmacological properties of drugs targeting sphingolipid signalling will affect cardiovascular function in vivo. The answer to this question will most likely also indicate what type of drug could be used to treat cardiovascular disease. The latter is becoming increasingly important because of the increasing population carrying characteristics of the metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is, amongst others, characterized by obesity, hypertension, atherosclerosis and diabetes. As such, individuals with this syndrome are at increased risk of heart disease. Now numerous studies have investigated sphingolipid effects in the cardiovascular system, can we speculate whether certain sphingolipids under specific conditions are good, bad or maybe both? In this review we will give a brief overview of the pathophysiological role of sphingolipids in cardiovascular disease. In addition, we will try to answer how drugs that target sphingolipid signalling will potentially influence cardiovascular function and whether these drugs would be useful to treat cardiovascular disease.

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