Glycerol is a small and simple molecule produced in the breakdown of glucose, proteins, pyruvate, triacylglycerols and other glycerolipid, as well as release from dietary fats. An increasing number of observations show that glycerol is probably involved in a surprising variety of physiopathologic mechanisms. Glycerol has long been known to play fundamental roles in several vital physiological processes, in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and is an important intermediate of energy metabolism. Despite some differences in the details of their operation, many of these mechanisms have been preserved throughout evolution, demonstrating their fundamental importance. In particular, glycerol can control osmotic activity and crystal formation and then act as a cryoprotective agent. Furthermore, its properties make it useful in numerous industrial, therapeutic and diagnostic applications. Few studies have focussed directly on glycerol, however, and while its metabolism is increasingly well documented, much of the details remain unknown. Considering the importance of glycerol in multiple vital physiological processes, its study could help unlock important physiopathological mechanisms.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.