Sphingolipid metabolism: roles in signal transduction and disruption by fumonisins

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Merrill, Alfred H.
Sullards, M. Cameron
Wang, Elaine
Voss, Kenneth A.
Riley, Ronald T.
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Sphingolipids have important roles in membrane and lipoprotein structure and in cell regulation as second messengers for growth factors, differentiation factors, cytokines, and a growing list of agonists. Bioactive sphingolipids are formed both by the turnover of complex sphingolipids and as intermediates of sphingolipid biosynthesis. Usually, the amounts are highly regulated; however, by inhibiting ceramide synthase, fumonisins block the biosynthesis of complex sphingolipids and cause sphinganine (and sometimes sphingosine) to accumulate. Where the mechanism has been studied most thoroughly, the accumulation of sphingoid bases is a primary cause of the toxicity of fumonisin B (FB). Nonetheless, the full effects of fumonisins probably involve many biochemical events. The elevations in sphingoid bases also affect the amounts of other lipids, including the 1-phosphates and N-acetyl derivatives of sphinganine. Furthermore, the aminopentol backbone of FB1 (AP1) is both an inhibitor and a substrate for ceramide synthase, and the resultant N-palmitoyl-AP1 (PAP1) is an even more potent inhibitor of ceramide synthase (presumably as a product analog). PAP1 is 10 times more toxic than FB1 or AP1 for HT-29 cells in culture, and hence may play a role in the toxicity of nixtamalized fumonisins. All these processes--the effects of fumonisins on sphingolipid metabolism, the pathways altered by perturbation of sphingolipid metabolism, and the complex cellular behaviors regulated by sphingolipids--must be borne in mind when evaluating the pathologic effects of fumonisins.
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