Glycosphingolipids are the major glycolipid found in animals. These lipids have glycans attached to the C-3 hydroxyl group of diacylglycerol. Sugars that are linked to glycosphingolipids are wide in variety. Some of the most common glycan linkages are glucose and galactose as well as its analog sulfatide. Glycosphingolipids comprise <5% of the total membrane lipid in erythrocytes and up to 20% of the total membrane lipid in myelin. They are not uniformly distributed in the membrane, but instead are clustered in lipid rafts. They have two major functions: mediating cell-cell interactions via binding to complementary molecules on opposing plasma membranes and modulating activities of proteins in the same plasma membrane.

Schnaar RL, Kinoshita T. Glycosphingolipids. 2017. In: Varki A, Cummings RD, Esko JD, et al., editors. Essentials of Glycobiology [Internet]. 3rd edition. Cold Spring Harbor (NY): Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; 2015-2017. Chapter 11. Available from: doi: 10.1101/glycobiology.3e.011