Sphingomyelin breakdown and cell fate

Trends Biochem Sci. 1996 Dec;21(12):468-71. doi: 10.1016/s0968-0004(96)10056-6.


A growing number of cell-surface receptors are now being shown to generate signals that trigger the hydrolysis of sphingomyelin to release diffusible ceramides. Ceramides have been implicated as key mediators in signaling pathways, with outcomes as diverse as cell proliferation, differentiation, growth arrest and apoptosis. The response depends on cell type, whether the signal is integrated with other signals originating from the same receptor and on the subcellular location of sphingomyelin hydrolysis and ceramide release.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death / physiology*
  • Ceramides / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Models, Biological
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / metabolism
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase / metabolism
  • Sphingomyelins / metabolism
  • Sphingomyelins / physiology*
  • fas Receptor / metabolism


  • Ceramides
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Sphingomyelins
  • fas Receptor
  • Protein Kinases
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases
  • Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase