Sphingolipids (SLs) comprise a class of lipids with important structural functions and increasing relevance in cellular signalling. In particular, ceramide has attracted considerable attention owing to its role as a second messenger modulating several cell functions such as proliferation, gene expression, differentiation, cell cycle arrest and cell death. Increasing evidence documents the role of SLs in stress and death ligand-induced hepatocellular death, which contributes to the progression of several liver diseases including steatohepatitis, ischaemia-reperfusion liver injury or hepatocarcinogenesis. Furthermore, recent data indicate that the accumulation of SLs in specific cell subcompartments, characteristic of many sphingolipidoses, contributes to the hepatic dysfunctions that accompany these inherited diseases. Hence, the regulation of the cell biology and metabolism of SLs may open up a novel therapeutic avenue in the treatment of liver diseases.