Membrane sphingolipids as essential molecular signals for Bacteroides survival in the intestine

Dingding Ana, Chongzheng Na, Jacek Bielawski, Yusuf A. Hannun, Dennis L. Kasper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


As predominant intestinal symbiotic bacteria, Bacteroides are essential in maintaining the health of the normal mammalian host; in return, the host provides a niche with plentiful nutrients for the symbionts. However, the intestinal environment is replete with chemical, physical, and biological challenges that require mechanisms for prompt and adept sensing of and responses to stress if the bacteria are to survive. Herein we propose that to persist in the intestine Bacteroides take advantage of their unusual bacterial sphingolipids to mediate signaling pathways previously known to be available only to higher organisms. Sphingolipids convey diverse signal transduction and stress response pathways and have profound physiological impacts demonstrated in a variety of eukaryotic cell types. We propose a mechanism by which the formation of specific sphingolipid membrane microdomains initiates signaling cascades that facilitate survival strategies within the bacteria. Our preliminary data suggest that sphingolipid signaling plays an important role in Bacteroides physiology, enabling these bacteria to persist in the intestine and to perform other functions related to symbiosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4666-4671
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Mar 15 2011


  • Bacterial sphingolipids
  • Lipid rafts
  • Stress response


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