Sphingolipids and lipid rafts: Novel concepts and methods of analysis

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142 Scopus citations


About twenty years ago, the functional lipid raft model of the plasma membrane was published. It took into account decades of research showing that cellular membranes are not just homogenous mixtures of lipids and proteins. Lateral anisotropy leads to assembly of membrane domains with specific lipid and protein composition regulating vesicular traffic, cell polarity, and cell signaling pathways in a plethora of biological processes. However, what appeared to be a clearly defined entity of clustered raft lipids and proteins became increasingly fluid over the years, and many of the fundamental questions about biogenesis and structure of lipid rafts remained unanswered. Experimental obstacles in visualizing lipids and their interactions hampered progress in understanding just how big rafts are, where and when they are formed, and with which proteins raft lipids interact. In recent years, we have begun to answer some of these questions and sphingolipids may take center stage in re-defining the meaning and functional significance of lipid rafts. In addition to the archetypical cholesterol-sphingomyelin raft with liquid ordered (Lo) phase and the liquid-disordered (Ld) non-raft regions of cellular membranes, a third type of microdomains termed ceramide-rich platforms (CRPs) with gel-like structure has been identified. CRPs are “ceramide rafts” that may offer some fresh view on the membrane mesostructure and answer several critical questions for our understanding of lipid rafts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-131
Number of pages18
JournalChemistry and Physics of Lipids
StatePublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Cell Biology


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