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Brain Pathol. 1998 Jan;8(1):79-100.

Recent advances in the biochemistry of sphingolipidoses.

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Kekulé-Institut für Organische Chemie und Biochemie der Universität, Bonn, Germany.


Glycosphingolipids are ubiquitous membrane components of eukaryotic cells. They participate in various cell recognition events and can regulate enzymes and receptors within the plasma membrane. Sphingolipidoses are due to an impaired lysosomal digestion of these substances. Glycosphingolipids are degraded by the action of exohydrolases, which are supported, in the case of glycosphingolipids with short oligosaccharide chains, by sphingolipid activator proteins. Five sphingolipid activator proteins are known so far, the GM2-activator and the SAPs, SAP-A to D (also called saposins). Degradation of glycosphingolipids requires endocytic membrane flow of plasma membrane derived glycosphingolipids into the lysosomes. Recent research focused on the topology of this process and on the mechanism and physiological function of sphingolipid activator proteins. Limited knowledge is available about enzymology and topology of glycosphingolipid biosynthesis. Recently, intermediates of this metabolic pathway have been identified as novel signalling molecules. Inhibition of glycosphingolipid biosynthesis has been shown to be beneficial in the animal model of Tay-Sachs disease. Mice with disrupted genes for lysosomal hydrolases and activator proteins are useful models for known human diseases and are valuable tools for the study of glycosphingolipid metabolism, the pathogenesis of sphingolipidoses and novel therapeutic approaches.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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