Ceramide signaling in cancer and stem cells

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Abstract

Most of the previous work on the sphingolipid ceramide has been devoted to its function as an apoptosis inducer. Recent studies, however, have shown that in stem cells, ceramide has additional nonapoptotic functions. In this article, ceramide signaling will be reviewed in light of ‘systems interface biology‘: as an interconnection of sphingolipid metabolism, membrane biophysics and cell signaling. The focus will be on the metabolic interconversion of ceramide and sphingomyelin or sphingosine-1-phosphate. Lipid rafts and sphingolipid-induced protein scaffolds will be discussed as a membrane interface for lipid-controlled cell signaling. Ceramide/sphingomyelin and ceramide/sphingosine-1-phosphate-interdependent cell-signaling pathways are significant for the regulation of cell polarity, apoptosis and/or proliferation, and as novel pharmacologic targets in cancer and stem cells.

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