Sphingolipids are amphiphatic molecules ubiquitously expressed in all eukaryotic cell membranes. Initially characterized as structural components of cell membranes, sphingolipids have emerged as sources of important signalling molecules over the past decade. Sphingolipid metabolites, such as ceramide and S1P (sphingosine 1-phosphate), have been demonstrated to have roles as potent bioactive messengers involved in cell differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis, migration and angiogenesis. The importance of SphK (sphingosine kinase) and S1P in inflammation has been demonstrated extensively. The prevalence of asthma is increasing in many developed nations. Consequently, there is an urgent need for the development of new agents for the treatment of asthma, especially for patients who respond poorly to conventional therapy. Recent studies have demonstrated the important role of SphK and S1P in the development of asthma by regulating pro-inflammatory responses. These novel pathways represent exciting potential therapeutic targets in the treatment of asthma and are described in the present review.

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