ABSTRACT: To probe the functions of membrane gangliosides, the availability of ganglioside-depleted cells would be a valuable resource. To attempt to identify a useful genetic model of ganglioside depletion, we assessed ganglioside metabolism in murine GM3 synthase (GM3S)-/- knockout primary embryonic fibroblasts (MEF), because normal fibroblast gangliosides (GM3, GM2, GM1, and GD1a), all downstream products of GM3S, should be absent. We found that heterozygote MEF (GM3S+/-) did have a 36% reduced content of qualitatively normal gangliosides (7.0+/-0.8 nmol LBSA/mg cell protein; control: 11+/-1.6 nmol). However, two unexpected findings characterized the homozygous (GM3-/-) MEF. Despite complete knockout of GM3S, (i) GM3-/- MEF retained substantial ganglioside content (21% of normal or 2.3+/-1.1 nmol) and (ii) these gangliosides were entirely different from those of wild type MEF by HPTLC. Mass spectrometry identified them as GM1b, GalNAc-GM1b, and GD1alpha, containing both N-acetyl and N-glycolylneuraminic acid and diverse ceramide structures. All are products of the 0 pathway of ganglioside synthesis, not normally expressed in fibroblasts. The results suggest that complete, but not partial, inhibition of GM3 synthesis results in robust activation of an alternate pathway that may compensate for the complete absence of the products of GM3S.
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 10/2007; 1771(9):1226-34. · 4.66 Impact Factor