Sphingolipid signaling in gonadal development and function
Sphingolipid second messengers, such as ceramide and sphingosine-1-phosphate, signal proliferation, differentiation and death in mammalian cells. The object of this article is to highlight the potential impact of this new information on the study of female and male gonadal development and function. Since the generation of competent gametes by both sexes is precisely regulated by maturational (meiotic) and apoptotic (quality-control) checkpoints, it is proposed that lipid signaling molecules serve as important contributors to the regulation of gametogenesis. The function of sphingolipid molecules in mediating stress- or damage-induced apoptosis in the germ line, an event most-likely associated with impaired gonadal function and infertility, is also discussed. Collectively, these areas represent exciting research directions that may ultimately lead to the development of new therapeutics to coordinate and control fertility in males and females.