Proceedings of the Japan Academy, Series B
Online ISSN : 1349-2896
Print ISSN : 0386-2208
My journey into the world of sphingolipids and sphingolipidoses
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2012 Volume 88 Issue 10 Pages 554-582


Analysis of lipid storage in postmortem brains of patients with amaurotic idiocy led to the recognition of five lysosomal ganglioside storage diseases and identification of their inherited metabolic blocks. Purification of lysosomal acid sphingomyelinase and ceramidase and analysis of their gene structures were the prerequisites for the clarification of Niemann-Pick and Farber disease. For lipid catabolism, intraendosomal vesicles are formed during the endocytotic pathway. They are subjected to lipid sorting processes and were identified as luminal platforms for cellular lipid and membrane degradation. Lipid binding glycoproteins solubilize lipids from these cholesterol poor membranes and present them to water-soluble hydrolases for digestion. Biosynthesis and intracellular trafficking of lysosomal hydrolases (hexosaminidases, acid sphingomyelinase and ceramidase) and lipid binding and transfer proteins (GM2 activator, saposins) were analyzed to identify the molecular and metabolic basis of several sphingolipidoses. Studies on the biosynthesis of glycosphingolipids yielded the scheme of Combinatorial Ganglioside Biosynthesis involving promiscuous glycosyltransferases. Their defects in mutagenized mice impair brain development and function.

(Communicated by Kunihiko SUZUKI, M.J.A.)

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© 2012 The Japan Academy
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