Obesity is a major health concern that increases the risk for insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes (T2D), and cardiovascular disease. Thus, an enormous research effort has been invested into understanding how obesity-associated dyslipidemia and obesity-induced alterations in lipid metabolism increase the risk for these diseases. Accordingly, it has been proposed that the accumulation of lipid metabolites in organs such as the liver, skeletal muscle, and heart is critical to these obesity-induced pathologies. Ceramide is one such lipid metabolite that accumulates in tissues in response to obesity, and both pharmacological and genetic strategies that reduce tissue ceramide levels yield salutary actions on overall metabolic health. We will review herein why ceramide accumulates in tissues during obesity and how an increase in intracellular ceramide impacts cellular signaling and function as well as potential mechanisms by which reducing intracellular ceramide levels improves insulin resistance, T2D, atherosclerosis, and heart failure. Because a reduction in skeletal muscle ceramide levels is frequently associated with improvements in insulin sensitivity in humans, the beneficial findings reported for reducing ceramides in preclinical studies may have clinical application in humans. Therefore, modulating ceramide metabolism may be a novel, exciting target for preventing and/or treating obesity-related diseases.
- insulin resistance
- insulin signaling
- serine palmitoyltransferase
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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