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Glycoconj J. 2004;20(1):39-47.

Glycosphingolipids and cell death.

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Department of Biochemistry, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Richmond, VA 23298, USA.


Sphingolipids have been implicated in various cellular processes including growth, cell-cell or ligand-receptor interactions, and differentiation. In addition to their importance as reservoirs of metabolites with important signaling properties, sphingolipids also help provide structural order to plasma membrane lipids and proteins within the bilayer. Glycosylated sphingolipids, and sphingomyelin in particular, are involved in the formation of lipid rafts. Although it is well accepted that ceramide, the backbone of all sphingolipids, plays a critical role in apoptosis, less is known about the biological functions of glycosphingolipids. This review summarizes current knowledge of the involvement of glycosphingolipids in cell death and in other pathological processes and diseases.

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