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Biochemistry. 2001 Apr 24;40(16):4893-903.

Enzymes of sphingolipid metabolism: from modular to integrative signaling.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston 29425, USA.


Many enzymes of sphingolipid metabolism are regulated in response to extra- and intracellular stimuli and in turn serve as regulators of levels of bioactive lipids (such as sphingosine, ceramide, sphingosine 1-phosphate, and diacylglycerol), and as such, they serve a prototypical modular function in cell regulation. However, lipid metabolism is also closely interconnected in that a product of one enzyme serves as a substrate for another. Moreover, many cell stimuli regulate more than one of these enzymes, thus adding to the complexity of regulation of lipid metabolism. In this paper, we review the status of enzymes of sphingolipid metabolism in cell regulation and propose a role for these enzymes in integration of cell responses, a role that builds on the modular organization while also taking advantage of the complexity and interconnectedness of lipid metabolism, thus providing for a combinatorial mechanism of generating diversity in cell responses. This may be a general prototype for the involvement of metabolic pathways in cell regulation.

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