The role of ORMDL proteins, guardians of cellular sphingolipids, in asthma

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A family of widely expressed ORM-like (ORMDL) proteins has been recently linked to asthma in genomewide association studies in humans and extensively explored in in vivo studies in mice. ORMDL proteins are key regulators of serine palmitoyltransferase, an enzyme catalyzing the initial step of sphingolipid biosynthesis. Sphingolipids play prominent roles in cell signaling and response to stress, and they affect the mechanistic properties of cellular membranes. Deregulation of sphingolipid biosynthesis and their recycling has been proven to support and even cause several diseases including allergy, inflammation, and asthma. ORMDL3, the most extensively studied member of the ORMDL family, has been shown to be important for endoplasmic reticulum homeostasis by regulating the unfolded protein response and calcium response. In immune cells, ORMDL3 is involved in migration and in the production of proinflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, changes in the expression level of ORMDL3 are important in allergen-induced asthma pathologies. This review focuses on functional aspects of the ORMDL family proteins, which may serve as new therapeutic targets for the treatment of asthma and some other life-threatening diseases.

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