This chapter discusses the receptors for gangliosides and related glycosphingolipids on central and peripheral nervous system cell membranes. The chapter focuses on the detection and characterization of novel protein receptors for gangliosides and related glycosphingolipids in the nervous system. The incorporated strategy is to identify ganglioside (and related) binding activities using synthetic glycosphingolipid-based radioligands, to characterize the structural and tissue specificity of binding activities, and to purify the responsible protein receptors. The chapter also discusses the identification of a ganglioside receptor in the central nervous system and a receptor for sulfoglucuronyl glycosphingolipids in the peripheral nervous system. Through the use of semi-synthetic glycosphingolipidbased neoglycoconjugates—which combine multivalence—sequestering or removal of the lipid moiety, and facile radioiodination, research is successful in demonstrating unique binding activities for gangliosides and sulfoglucuronyl glycosphingolipids in the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS) respectively. Although the identification of the functional roles of these glycosphingolipid- specific binding activities await further studies, their differential tissue and membrane distribution suggests that they may be involved in ‘trans' interactions between myelinating cells and axons.
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