Ceramide in bacterial infections and cystic fibrosis

Biol Chem. 2008 Nov;389(11):1371-9. doi: 10.1515/BC.2008.162.


Ceramide is formed by the activity of sphingomyelinases, by degradation of complex sphingolipids, reverse ceramidase activity or de novo synthesized. The formation of ceramide within biological membranes results in the formation of large ceramide-enriched membrane domains. These domains serve the spatial and temporal organization of receptors and signaling molecules. The acid sphingomyelinase-ceramide system plays an important role in the infection of mammalian host cells with bacterial pathogens such as Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella typhimurium and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Ceramide and ceramide-enriched membrane platforms are also involved in the induction of apoptosis in infected cells, such as in epithelial and endothelial cells after infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, respectively. Finally, ceramide-enriched membrane platforms are critical regulators of the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines upon infection. The diverse functions of ceramide in bacterial infections suggest that ceramide and ceramide-enriched membrane domains are key players in host responses to many pathogens and thus are potential novel targets to treat infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Infections / pathology
  • Ceramides / metabolism*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism


  • Ceramides