The Anti-Infectious Role of Sphingosine in Microbial Diseases

Sphingolipids are important structural membrane components and, together with cholesterol, are often organized in lipid rafts, where they act as signaling molecules in many cellular functions. They play crucial roles in regulating pathobiological processes, such as cancer, inflammation, and infectious diseases. The bioactive metabolites ceramide, sphingosine-1-phosphate, and sphingosine have been shown to be involved in the pathogenesis of several microbes. In contrast to ceramide, which often promotes bacterial and viral infections (for instance, by mediating adhesion and internalization), sphingosine, which is released from ceramide by the activity of ceramidases, kills many bacterial, viral, and fungal pathogens. In particular, sphingosine is an important natural component of the defense against bacterial pathogens in the respiratory tract. Pathologically reduced sphingosine levels in cystic fibrosis airway epithelial cells are normalized by inhalation of sphingosine, and coating plastic implants with sphingosine prevents bacterial infections. Pretreatment of cells with exogenous sphingosine also prevents the viral spike protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) from interacting with host cell receptors and inhibits the propagation of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) in macrophages. Recent examinations reveal that the bactericidal effect of sphingosine might be due to bacterial membrane permeabilization and the subsequent death of the bacteria.


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