Biological roles played by sphingolipids in dimorphic and filamentous fungi

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Filamentous and dimorphic fungi cause invasive mycoses associated with high mortality rates. Among the fungal determinants involved in the establishment of infection, glycosphingolipids (GSLs) have gained increased interest in the last few decades. GSLs are ubiquitous membrane components that have been isolated from both filamentous and dimorphic species and play a crucial role in polarized growth as well as hypha-to-yeast transition. In fungi, two major classes of GSLs are found: neutral and acidic GSLs. Neutral GSLs comprise glucosylceramide and galactosylceramide, which utilize Δ4-Δ8-9-methyl-sphingadienine as a sphingoid base, linked to a C 16–18 fatty acid chain, forming ceramide, and to a sugar residue, such as glucose or galactose. In contrast, acidic GSLs include glycosylinositol phosphorylceramides (GIPCs), composed of phytosphingosine attached to a long or very long fatty acid chain (C 18–26 ) and to diverse and complex glycan groups via an inositol-phosphate linker. GIPCs are absent in mammalian cells, while fungal glucosylceramide and galactosylceramide are present but diverge structurally from their counterparts. Therefore, these compounds and their biosynthetic pathways represent potential targets for the development of selective therapeutic strategies. In this minireview, we discuss the enzymatic steps involved in the production of fungal GSLs, analyze their structure, and address the role of the currently characterized genes in the biology and pathogenesis of filamentous and dimorphic fungi.




Fernandes, C. M., Goldman, G. H., & Del Poeta, M. (2018, May 1). Biological roles played by sphingolipids in dimorphic and filamentous fungi. MBio. American Society for Microbiology.

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