Progress in lipid research

Dihydroceramide desaturase and dihydrosphingolipids: debutant players in the sphingolipid arena.

PMID 22200621


Sphingolipids are a wide family of lipids that share common sphingoid backbones, including (2S,3R)-2-amino-4-octadecane-1,3-diol (dihydrosphingosine) and (2S,3R,4E)-2-amino-4-octadecene-1,3-diol (sphingosine). The metabolism and biological functions of sphingolipids derived from sphingosine have been the subject of many reviews. In contrast, dihydrosphingolipids have received poor attention, mainly due to their supposed lack of biological activity. However, the reported biological effects of active site directed dihydroceramide desaturase inhibitors and the involvement of dihydrosphingolipids in the response of cells to known therapeutic agents support that dihydrosphingolipids are not inert but are in fact biologically active and underscore the importance of elucidating further the metabolic pathways and cell signaling networks involved in the biological activities of dihydrosphingolipids. Dihydroceramide desaturase is the enzyme involved in the conversion of dihydroceramide into ceramide and it is crucial in the regulation of the balance between sphingolipids and dihydrosphingolipids. Furthermore, given the enzyme requirement for O₂ and the NAD(P)H cofactor, the cellular redox balance and dihydroceramide desaturase activity may reciprocally influence each other. In this review both dihydroceramide desaturase and the biological functions of dihydrosphingolipids are addressed and perspectives on this field are discussed.

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