Neuroimmunology of gangliosides in human neurons and glial cells in culture

S. U. Kim, G. Moretto, V. Lee, R. K. Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Gangliosides (sialic‐acid‐bearing glycolipids) have received attention in recent years because of their role in cell recognition phenomena, synaptic transmission, memory generation, and nerve regeneration in the fields of neurosciences. It is suggested that each brain region or each neural cell type may contain a specific and characteristic set of gangliosides. We have investigated the immunocytochemical localization of several classes of gangliosides that include GM1, GM4, GD3, and GQ gangliosides on the cell surface of various cell types found in human neural cell cultures with antibodies specific for these gangliosides. Cell cultures were obtained from adult human brains and fetal human dorsal root ganglia and spinal cord and cultured in vitro for the period up to 6 months and utilized for the ganglioside immunocytochemistry. It was demonstrated that (1) GM1 ganglioside was present in all galactocerebroside‐positive oligodendrocytes and most of glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP)‐positive astrocytes (80%), most of neurofilament‐positive neurons (80%), 50–70% of Schwann cells, and 5–10% of fibronectin‐positive fibroblasts; (2) GM4 ganglioside could be detected in all oligodendrocytes, 80% of astrocytes, and 50% of Schwann cells, while no staining was found in neurons or fibroblasts; (3) GD3 ganglioside was present in all oligodendrocytes and 5–10% of astrocytes but not in neurons, Schwann cells, or fibroblasts; and (4) all of fetal CNS neurons and approximately 80–90% of fetal dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons and a small percentage of astrocytes (10–20% in fetal and <1% in adult astrocytes) was labeled by A2B5 antibody which is specific for GQ ganglioside, while this antibody did not stain cell surface of oligodendrocytes, Schwann cells, or fibroblasts. Three classes of gangliosides, GM1, GM4, and GD3 were found to be definite components of fetal and adult human oligodendroglial plasma membrane, while GM1 and GM4 gangliosides were detected on the surface of most astrocytes. Only a minor population of astrocytes from both fetal and adult human CNS contained GD3 and GQ gangliosides. Two classes of gangliosides, GM1 and GQ, were detected on the surface of fetal human neurons. More than half of fetal Schwann cells reacted to GM1 and GM4 antibodies but did not to GD3 or GQ antibodies. We recognized the presence of a specific and characteristic set of gangliosides on the cell surface of different human neural cell types and these findings should facilitate further investigation of the precise biological activity of these gangliosides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-321
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • G ganglioside
  • G ganglioside
  • G ganglioside
  • G ganglioside
  • Schwann cell
  • astrocyte
  • cell culture
  • cell typespecific markers
  • immunofluorescence
  • oligodendrocyte

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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