The backbone of sphingomyelin is sphingosine, an amino alcohol formed from palmitate and serine. The amino terminal is acylated with a by a long-chain acyl CoA to yield ceramide. Subsequent substitution of the terminal hydroxyl group by phosphatidyl choline forms sphingomyelin.

Sphingomyelin is present in all eukaryotic cell membranes, and is particularly concentrated in the nervous system because sphingomyelin is a major component of myelin, the fatty insulation wrapped around nerve cells by Schwann cells or oligodendrocytes. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease characterised by deterioration of the myelin sheath, leading to impairment of nervous conduction.

Sphingomyelin (Red:Phosphatidyl choline, Blue:Acyl CoA)


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