These pages comprise a series of documents describing the structures, occurrence, biochemistry and functions of the sphingolipids, including sphingoid bases, ceramides, sphingo-phospholipids, such as sphingomyelin, and the complex glycosphingolipids.
The basic building block of a sphingolipid is a sphingoid base such as sphingosine, linked via an amide bond to a long-chain fatty acid to form a ceramide. Both the base and the ceramide molecule have important biological activities in their own right, but they can also be linked via the terminal hydroxyl group to phosphate or to carbohydrate moieties, which can be highly complex. All of these are important as membrane constituents, in the specialized micro-domains termed 'rafts'. In addition, they may have other vital biological functions, for example as cellular messengers or as part of the immune system.
- Introduction to sphingolipids and rafts
- Long-chain or sphingoid bases
- Sphingomyelin & related lipids + Sphingosine phosphorylcholine, ceramide phosphorylethanolamine, etc
- Monoglycosylceramides (cerebrosides) + psychosine
- Oligoglycosylceramides (non-acidic) - lactosylceramide and more complex non-acidic glycolipids
- Glycosphingolipid sulfates
- Ceramide phosphorylinositol, and related complex glycophosphosphingolipids + mannosyl lipids
These essays are aimed at generalists - not experts in particular disciplines - but it is hoped that the reading lists at the end of each will provide for those who require a more specialized knowledge. PDF files are available for download at the end of web-pages. There are shortcuts to a full list of individual lipid classes here.
Updated January 20, 2012