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Complex phosphorylated glycolipids were discovered in 1958 by the group of Carter HE in soybean extracts (Carter HE et al., J Biol Chem 1958, 233, 1309) and during the 1960s in several plants (Carter HE et al., Biochemistry 1969, 8, 383). These compounds were named in 1958 "phytoglycolipids" and were shown to consist of ceramides (based mainly on phytosphingosine) linked to a phosphoinositol group which may be itself linked to a complex oligosaccharide. This later residue may be composed of inositol, mannose, fucose, arabinose, hexuronic acid, glucosamine, and xylose. The complexity and the diversity of these molecules led specialists to consider them as glycolipids more than phospholipids.
Further investigations have shown that these compounds are not restricted to plants but are found also in bacteria, yeast, fungi, and protozoans, while being absent in animals (Lester RL et al., Adv Lipid Res 1993, 26, 253). Thus, the trivial term
"phytoglycolipids", used only in cosmetics, has been replaced by the generally accepted term inositol phosphorylceramides

In bacteria (Sphingobacterium), a phosphomannose group was described  instead of the phosphoinositol group present in the majority of the above cited organisms (Naka T et al., Biochim Biophys Acta 2003, 1635, 83).

Molecular species in each class differ in the structure and composition of the glycoside fraction but also in the composition of long-chain bases and fatty acids in the hydrophob