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Biochimie. 2011 Jan;93(1):32-8. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2010.05.016. Epub 2010 May 31.

The twists and turns of sphingolipid pathway in glucose regulation.

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Department of Physiology, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington, KY 40536, USA.


Palmitic acid is a saturated fat found in foods that lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and Type II diabetes. It is linked to the development of resistance to insulin stimulation in muscle, liver and other organs involved in glucose metabolism, which, in turn, underlines the onset of Type II diabetes. The cellular and molecular mechanisms of this insulin resistance are complex and not completely understood. This article is focused on the role of palmitic acid as a precursor in the synthesis of sphingolipids, a class of lipid molecules that participate in cellular stress response. Recent evidence had indicated that increased dietary supply of palmitate can stimulate the rate of sphingolipid synthesis in "lean" tissues and generate excessive amounts of sphingolipid metabolites that have a negative effect on the insulin signaling cascade. Many experimental results point to the existence of a causative link between sphingolipid synthesis, insulin response, and hyperglycemia. It is not yet clear, however whether ceramides or glycosphingolipids are involved as both have been implicated to be inhibitors of the insulin signaling cascade. Evidence for a coordinated regulation of sphingolipid and tri/diacylglycerol metabolism complicates further the delineation of a single mechanism of sphingolipid effect on glucose homeostasis.

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