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Keywords:

  • zebrafish;
  • ceramide synthase genes;
  • development

Background: Sphingolipids represent a major class of lipids which both serve as structural components of membranes and as bioactive molecules involved in lipid signaling. Ceramide synthases (cers) reside in the center of sphingolipid metabolism by producing ceramide through de novo synthesis or degradative pathways. While the six mammalian cers family members have been extensively studied in cell culture and in adult tissues, a systematic analysis of cers expression and function during embryogenesis is still lacking. Results: Using bioinformatic and phylogenetic analysis, we identified nine highly conserved homologs of the vertebrate cers gene family in the zebrafish genome. A systematic expression analysis throughout five developmental stages indicates that, whereas until 48 hours post fertilization most zebrafish cers homologs are expressed in distinct patterns, e.g., in the intermediate cell mass and the pronephric duct, they show a highly overlapping expression during later stages of embryonic development, mostprominently in the developing brain. Conclusions: In this study, the expression of the cers gene homologs is comprehensively analyzed for the first time during vertebrate embryogenesis. Our data indicate that each embryonic tissue has a unique profile of cers expression during zebrafish embryogenesis suggesting tissue-specific profiles of ceramides and their derivatives. Developmental Dynamics 242:189–200, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.