Mice lacking complex gangliosides develop Wallerian degeneration and myelination defects

Kazim A. Sheikh, Ji Sun, Yujing Liu, Hiromichi Kawai, Thomas O. Crawford, Richard L. Proia, John W. Griffin, Ronald L. Schnaar

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Gangliosides are a family of sialic acid-containing glycosphingolipids highly enriched in the mammalian nervous system. Although they are the major sialoglycoconjugates in the brain, their neurobiological functions remain poorly defined. By disrupting the gene for a key enzyme in complex ganglioside biosynthesis (GM2/GD2 synthase; EC we generated mice that express only simple gangliosides (GM3/GD3) and examined their central and peripheral nervous systems. The complex ganglioside knockout mice display decreased central myelination, axonal degeneration in both the central and peripheral nervous systems, and demyelination in peripheral nerves. The pathological features of their nervous system closely resemble those reported in mice with a disrupted gene for myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG), a myelin receptor that binds to complex brain gangliosides in vitro. Furthermore, GM2/GD2 synthase knockout mice have reduced MAG expression in the central nervous system. These results indicate that complex gangliosides function in central myelination and maintaining the integrity of axons and myelin. They also support the theory that complex gangliosides are endogenous ligands for MAG. The data extend and clarify prior observations on a similar mouse model, which reported only subtle conduction defects in their nervous system [Takamiya, K., Yamamoto, A., Furukawa, K., Yamashiro, S., Shin, M., Okada, M., Fukumoto, S., Haraguchi, M., Takeda, N., Fujimura, K., et al. (1996) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 93, 10662-10667].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7532-7537
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jun 22 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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