Variations among cell lines in the synthesis of sphingolipids in de novo and recycling pathways

Baiba K. Gillard, Rhonda G. Clement, Donald M. Marcus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


There are several pathways for the incorporation of sugars into glycosphingolipids (GSL). Sugars can be added to ceramide that contains sphinganine (dihydrosphingosine) synthesized de novo (pathway 1), to ceramide synthesized from sphingoid bases produced by hydrolysis of sphingolipids (pathway 2), and into GSL recycling from the endosomal pathway through the Golgi (pathway 3). We reported previously the suprising observation that SW 13 cells, a human adrenal carcinoma cell line, synthesize most of their GSL in pathway 2. We now present data on the synthesis of GSL in four additional cell lines. Approximately 90% of sugar incorporation took place in pathway 2, and 10% or less in pathway 1, in human foreskin fibroblasts and NB41A3 neuroblastoma cells. In contrast, approximately 50-90% of sugar incorporation took place in pathway 1 in C2C12 myoblasts. The C2C12 cells divide more rapidly and synthesize 10-14 times as much GSL as the other three cell lines. In C6 glioma cells, ~30% of sugar incorporation occurred in pathway 1 and 60% in pathway 2. There was no relation between the utilization of pathways for GSL and sphingomyelin synthesis in foreskin fibroblasts and C2C12 cells. In both cells pathways 1 and 2 each accounted for 50% of incorporation of choline into sphingomyelin. In five of the six cell lines that we have studied, most GSL synthesis takes place in pathway 2. We suggest that when the need for synthesis is relatively low, as in slowly dividing cells, GSL are synthesized predominantly from sphingoid bases salvaged from the hydrolytic pathway. When cells are dividing more rapidly, the need for increased synthesis is met by upregulating the de novo pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)885-890
Number of pages6
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1998


  • Biosynthesis
  • Glycosphingolipids
  • Pathways of metabolism
  • Sphingomyelin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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