Glycosphingolipids (GSLs), a subclass of glycolipids found in the cell membranes of organisms from bacteria to humans, are the major glycolipids of animals. The emphasis of this chapter is on vertebrate glycosphingolipids. Information on glycolipids of fungi, plants, and invertebrates is covered elsewhere (Chapters 20 and 23–26), as are glycosylphosphatidylinositols (GPIs), glycolipids attached to proteins as membrane anchors (Chapter 12). This chapter describes the characteristic features of GSLs, pathways for their biosynthesis, and insights into their biological roles in membrane structure, host–pathogen interactions, cell–cell recognition, and modulation of membrane protein function.
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