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Glycobiology. 2006 Sep;16(9):19G-22G.

Cholera toxin B subunit binding does not correlate with GM1 expression: a study using mouse embryonic neural precursor cells.


Gangliosides, sialic acid-containing glycosphingolipids, are ubiquitously expressed in all eukaryotic cells and are primarily localized in the plasma membrane. Cholera toxin B subunit (Ctxb), a component of a heat-labile enterotoxin produced by Vibrio cholerae, has been frequently used as a probe to detect GM1 ganglioside because of its high affinity for this glycolipid. In this study, we evaluated the reactivity of Ctxb and the expression of GM1 in mouse embryonic neuroepithelial cells (NECs). Analysis of Ctxb reactivity of NECs based on flow cytometry revealed that about 80% of the cells are Ctxb positive. A detailed biochemical analysis, however, indicated that GM1 was expressed in NECs in barely detectable quantities. Thus, it was thought that reactivity of Ctxb in the NECs could arise from high-affinity interaction with GM1. Because Ctxb is commonly used as a reagent for flow cytometry and GM1 cell staining, we recommend that using this reagent alone would be inconclusive and that biochemical analysis of GM1 should also be performed to avoid overestimation of GM1 expression and/or mischaracterization of the ganglioside species.

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