Chain length-specific properties of ceramides

Prog Lipid Res. 2012 Jan;51(1):50-62. doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2011.11.001. Epub 2011 Nov 25.


Ceramides are a class of sphingolipids that are abundant in cell membranes. They are important structural components of the membrane but can also act as second messengers in various signaling pathways. Until recently, ceramides and dihydroceramides were considered as a single functional class of lipids and no distinction was made between molecules with different chain lengths. However, based on the development of high-throughput, structure-specific and quantitative analytical methods to measure ceramides, it has now become clear that in cellular systems the amounts of ceramides differ with respect to their chain length. Further studies have indicated that some functions of ceramides are chain-length dependent. In this review, we discuss the chain length-specific differences of ceramides including their pathological impact on Alzheimer's disease, inflammation, autophagy, apoptosis and cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Ceramides / chemistry*
  • Ceramides / metabolism*
  • Disease
  • Humans
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism


  • Ceramides
  • Proteins
  • Oxidoreductases
  • dihydroceramide desaturase