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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013, Article ID 908907, 10 pages
Review Article

Metabolism, Physiological Role, and Clinical Implications of Sphingolipids in Gastrointestinal Tract

1Department of Physiology, Medical University of Bialystok, Mickiewicza Street 2C, 15-222 Białystok, Poland
2Department of Public Health, Medical University of Bialystok, Szpitalna Street 37, 15-295 Białystok, Poland
3Regional Blood Center, M. Skłodowskiej–Curie Street 23, 15-950 Białystok, Poland

Received 9 April 2013; Revised 30 June 2013; Accepted 2 August 2013

Academic Editor: Atsushi Sakuraba

Copyright © 2013 Krzysztof Kurek et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Sphingolipids in digestive system are responsible for numerous important physiological and pathological processes. In the membrane of gut epithelial cells, sphingolipids provide structural integrity, regulate absorption of some nutrients, and act as receptors for many microbial antigens and their toxins. Moreover, bioactive sphingolipids such as ceramide or sphingosine-1-phosphate regulate cellular growth, differentiation, and programmed cell death—apoptosis. Although it is well established that sphingolipids have clinical implications in gastrointestinal tumorigenesis or inflammation, further studies are needed to fully explore the role of sphingolipids in neoplastic and inflammatory diseases in gastrointestinal tract. Pharmacological agents which regulate metabolism of sphingolipids can be potentially used in the management of colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel diseases. The aim of this work is to critically the review physiological and pathological roles of sphingolipids in the gastrointestinal tract.