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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 120748, 10 pages
Review Article

Role of Ceramide from Glycosphingolipids and Its Metabolites in Immunological and Inflammatory Responses in Humans

1Institute for Environmental and Gender-Specific Medicine, Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine, 2-1-1 Tomioka Urayasu, Chiba 2790021, Japan
2Infection Control Nursing, Juntendo University Graduate School of Health Care and Nursing, Chiba 2790023, Japan
3Laboratory of Biochemistry, Juntendo University School of Health Care and Nursing, Chiba 2790023, Japan
4Department of Dermatology, Juntendo University Urayasu Hospital, Chiba 2790021, Japan

Received 12 August 2015; Revised 12 October 2015; Accepted 15 October 2015

Academic Editor: Denis Girard

Copyright © 2015 Kazuhisa Iwabuchi 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.


Glycosphingolipids (GSLs) are composed of hydrophobic ceramide and hydrophilic sugar chains. GSLs cluster to form membrane microdomains (lipid rafts) on plasma membranes, along with several kinds of transducer molecules, including Src family kinases and small G proteins. However, GSL-mediated biological functions remain unclear. Lactosylceramide (LacCer, CDw17) is highly expressed on the plasma membranes of human phagocytes and mediates several immunological and inflammatory reactions, including phagocytosis, chemotaxis, and superoxide generation. LacCer forms membrane microdomains with the Src family tyrosine kinase Lyn and the Gαi subunit of heterotrimeric G proteins. The very long fatty acids C24:0 and C24:1 are the main ceramide components of LacCer in neutrophil plasma membranes and are directly connected with the fatty acids of Lyn and Gαi. These observations suggest that the very long fatty acid chains of ceramide are critical for GSL-mediated outside-in signaling. Sphingosine is another component of ceramide, with the hydrolysis of ceramide by ceramidase producing sphingosine and fatty acids. Sphingosine is phosphorylated by sphingosine kinase to sphingosine-1-phosphate, which is involved in a wide range of cellular functions, including growth, differentiation, survival, chemotaxis, angiogenesis, and embryogenesis, in various types of cells. This review describes the role of ceramide moiety of GSLs and its metabolites in immunological and inflammatory reactions in human.