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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 1998 Mar;48(2):149-57.

Glycosphingolipid composition of MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 human breast cancer cell lines.

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  • 1National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


Much evidence has shown that glycosphingolipids are involved in cellular recognition, regulation of cell growth, and metastasis. In the present study, the major glycosphingolipids of two widely studied human breast cancer cell lines were examined. The MCF-7 cell line has functional estrogen and EGF receptors, is dependent on estrogen and EGF for growth, and is uninvasive, while MDA-MB-231 cells are a model for more aggressive, hormone-independent breast cancer. There was twice as much neutral glycolipid in MCF-7 cells as in MDA-MB-231 cells. The major neutral glycolipids in MDA-MB-231 cells were identified as CTH and globoside. MCF-7 cells also contained as the major neutral glycolipids CTH as well as globoside and two other glycolipids which were tentatively identified as galactosylgloboside and fucosylgalactosylgloboside by exoglycosidase treatments. Conversely, the ganglioside content was four fold higher in MDA-MB-231 cells compared to MCF-7 cells. The abundant gangliosides in both cell lines were GM3, GM2, GM1, and GD1a. A minor monosialoganglioside was detected in MDA-MB-231 cells. The striking 18 fold greater amount of GM3 in MDA-MB-231 cells may have important implications because GM3 has been suggested to be involved in regulation of growth factor functions. In agreement, insertion of ganglioside GM3 into the plasma membrane of MCF-7 cells blocked the growth stimulatory effect of EGF.

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