Structure and function of glycosphingolipids and sphingolipids: recollections and future trends

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 Mar;1780(3):325-46. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2007.08.015. Epub 2007 Sep 6.


Based on development of various methodologies for isolation and characterization of glycosphingolipids (GSLs), we have identified a number of GSLs with globo-series or lacto-series structure. Many of them are tumor-associated or developmentally regulated antigens. The major question arose, what are their functions in cells and tissues? Various approaches to answer this question were undertaken. While the method is different for each approach, we have continuously studied GSL or glycosyl epitope interaction with functional membrane components, which include tetraspanins, growth factor receptors, integrins, and signal transducer molecules. Often, GSLs were found to interact with other carbohydrates within a specific membrane microdomain termed "glycosynapse", which mediates cell adhesion with concurrent signal transduction. Future trends in GSL and glycosyl epitope research are considered, including stem cell biology and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Epitopes
  • Glycosphingolipids / chemistry*
  • Glycosphingolipids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Epitopes
  • Glycosphingolipids