Some of the simplest sphingolipids, namely sphingosine, ceramide and their phosphorylated compounds [sphingosine 1-phosphate (Sph-1-P) and ceramide 1-phosphate (Cer-1-P)], are potent metabolic regulators. Each of these lipids modifies in marked and specific ways the physical properties of the cell membranes, in what can be the basis for some of their physiological actions. The present paper is an overview of the mechanisms by which these sphingolipid signals, sphingosine and ceramide, in particular, are able to modify the properties of cell membranes.

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