Bioactive Sphingolipids as Major Regulators of Coronary Artery Disease

Atherosclerosis is the deposition of plaque in the main arteries. It is an inflammatory condition involving the accumulation of macrophages and various lipids (low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol, ceramide, S1P). Moreover, endothelial cells, macrophages, leukocytes, and smooth muscle cells are the major players in the atherogenic process. Sphingolipids are now emerging as important regulators in various pathophysiological processes, including the atherogenic process. Various sphingolipids exist, such as the ceramides, ceramide-1-phosphate, sphingosine, sphinganine, sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), sphingomyelin, and hundreds of glycosphingolipids. Among these, ceramides, glycosphingolipids, and S1P play important roles in the atherogenic processes. The atherosclerotic plaque consists of higher amounts of ceramide, glycosphingolipids, and sphingomyelin. The inhibition of the de novo ceramide biosynthesis reduces the development of atherosclerosis. S1P regulates atherogenesis via binding to the S1P receptor (S1PR). Among the five S1PRs (S1PR1-5), S1PR1 and S1PR3 mainly exert anti-atherosclerotic properties. This review mainly focuses on the effects of ceramide and S1P via the S1PR in the development of atherosclerosis. Moreover, it discusses the recent findings and potential therapeutic implications in atherosclerosis.