Sphingolipids are a class of lipids containing a backbone of sphingoid bases, a set of aliphatic amino alcohols that includes sphingosine. They were discovered in brain extracts in the 1870s and were named after the mythological sphinx because of their enigmatic nature.
Sphingolipids are found in all animals, plants, and fungi, and in some prokaryotic organisms and viruses. The head groups range from a simple hydrogen to more complex species, such as the phosphocholine moiety of sphingomyelin and the simple to complex glycans of glycosphingolipids. Types of Sphingolipids include sphingomyelins, Glycosphingolipids, Gangliosides etc.
Figure 1. General structures of Sphingolipids
Sphingomyelin is an abundant sphingolipid in cellular membranes: its hydrolysis releases ceramide and phosphocholine and several stimuli are known to activate sphingomyelin hydrolysis. Sphingolipids’ metabolites, such as ceramide, sphingosine, and sphingosine-1-phosphate, are bioactive signaling molecules which can act as a primary or secondary messenger to regulate cell life activities.
Figure 2. Structure of sphingomyelin
Glycosphingolipids are formed from ceramide with the transfer of a sugar to form glucosylceramide. Glucosylceramide can be further transformed to lactosylceramide that is a precursor for several types of glycosphingolipids. Glycosphingolipids are recognized as important, functional components of eukaryotic cell membranes. The concentration of the two major myelin glycosphingolipid, galactosylceramide and sulfogalactosylceramide, rises dramatically during myelination and then remains relatively constant during adult life.
Figure 3. Structure of glycosphingolipid
Gangliosides are sialic acid-containing glycosphingolipids. Gangliosides are typical amphipathic molecules organized in plasma membranes with their hydrophobic ceramide moiety inserted into the lipid bilayer and their hydrophilic, ionogenic group faced towards the outer environment of cells.1This model of ganglioside organization in membranes, as well as the occurrence of a "specific" interaction of gangliosides with various bioactive factors, favors the idea that gangliosides are acting as receptors for toxins, hormones, and other bioactive factors.
Figure 4. Structure of ganglioside
Alfa Chemistry offers a variety of sphingolipids for customers to choose from.