Sphingolipids and their metabolism in physiology and disease

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2018 Mar;19(3):175-191. doi: 10.1038/nrm.2017.107. Epub 2017 Nov 22.


Studies of bioactive lipids in general and sphingolipids in particular have intensified over the past several years, revealing an unprecedented and unanticipated complexity of the lipidome and its many functions, which rivals, if not exceeds, that of the genome or proteome. These results highlight critical roles for bioactive sphingolipids in most, if not all, major cell biological responses, including all major cell signalling pathways, and they link sphingolipid metabolism to key human diseases. Nevertheless, the fairly nascent field of bioactive sphingolipids still faces challenges in its biochemical and molecular underpinnings, including defining the molecular mechanisms of pathway and enzyme regulation, the study of lipid-protein interactions and the development of cellular probes, suitable biomarkers and therapeutic approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Compartmentation
  • Cell Movement
  • DNA Damage
  • Enzymes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Metabolic Diseases / genetics
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sphingolipids / chemistry
  • Sphingolipids / metabolism*
  • Sphingolipids / physiology


  • Enzymes
  • Sphingolipids