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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Aug;1801(8):878-86. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2010.05.003. Epub 2010 May 7.

Roles for dysfunctional sphingolipid metabolism in Alzheimer's disease neuropathogenesis.

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Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.


Sphingolipids in the membranes of neurons play important roles in signal transduction, either by modulating the localization and activation of membrane-associated receptors or by acting as precursors of bioactive lipid mediators. Activation of cytokine and neurotrophic factor receptors coupled to sphingomyelinases results in the generation of ceramides and gangliosides, which in turn, modify the structural and functional plasticity of neurons. In aging and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), there are increased membrane-associated oxidative stress and excessive production and accumulation of ceramides. Studies of brain tissue samples from human subjects, and of experimental models of the diseases, suggest that perturbed sphingomyelin metabolism is a pivotal event in the dysfunction and degeneration of neurons that occurs in AD and HIV dementia. Dietary and pharmacological interventions that target sphingolipid metabolism should be pursued for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.

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