Elucidation of the enigma of glycosphingolipids in the regulation of inflammation and degeneration - Great progress over the last 70 years

Proc Jpn Acad Ser B Phys Biol Sci. 2019;95(3):136-149. doi: 10.2183/pjab.95.011.


Since globotetraosylceramide was defined as a major glycosphingolipid in human erythrocytes, various glycolipids have been found in normal cells and diseased organs. However, the implications of their polymorphic structures in the function of individual cells and tissues have not been clarified. Genetic manipulation of glycosphingolipids in cultured cells and experimental animals has enabled us to substantially elucidate their roles. In fact, great progress has been achieved in the last 70 years in revealing that glycolipids are essential in the maintenance of integrity of nervous tissues and other organs. Furthermore, the correct composition of glycosphingolipids has been shown to be critical for the protection against inflammation and degeneration. Here, we summarized historic information and current knowledge about glycosphingolipids, with a focus on their involvement in inflammation and degeneration. This topic is significant for understanding the biological responses to various stresses, because glycosphingolipids play roles in the interaction with various intrinsic and extrinsic factors. These findings are also important for the application of therapeutic interventions of various diseases.

Keywords: carbohydrate; degeneration; glycosphingolipids; glycosyltransferase; inflammation; knockout.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Glycosphingolipids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Signal Transduction


  • Biomarkers
  • Glycosphingolipids