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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2007 Jun;1771(6):644-53. Epub 2007 Jan 23.

CERT and intracellular trafficking of ceramide.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, 1-23-1 Toyama, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-8640, Japan.


The transport and sorting of lipids from the sites of their synthesis to their appropriate destinations are fundamental for membrane biogenesis. In the synthesis of sphingolipids in mammalian cells, ceramide is newly produced at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), and transported from the ER to the trans Golgi regions, where it is converted to sphingomyelin. CERT has been identified as a key factor for the ER-to-Golgi trafficking of ceramide. CERT contains several functional domains including (i) a START domain capable of catalyzing inter-membrane transfer of ceramide, (ii) a pleckstrin homology domain, which serves to target the Golgi apparatus by recognizing phosphatidylinositol 4-monophosphate, and (iii) a short peptide motif named FFAT motif which interacts with the ER-resident membrane protein VAP. CERT is preferentially distributed to the Golgi region in cells, and Golgi-targeted CERT appears to retain the activity to interact with VAP. On the basis of these results, it has been proposed that CERT extracts ceramide from the ER and carries it to the Golgi apparatus in a non-vesicular manner and that a particularly efficient cycle of CERT movement for trafficking of ceramide may proceed at membrane contact sites between the ER and the Golgi apparatus.

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