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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 Dec 19;1573(3):406-13.

Galactolipids are molecular determinants of myelin development and axo-glial organization.

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UNC Neuroscience Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Myelination is a developmentally regulated process whereby myelinating glial cells elaborate large quantities of a specialized plasma membrane that ensheaths axons. The myelin sheath contains an unusual lipid composition in that the glycolipid galactosylceramide (GalC) and its sulfated form sulfatide constitute a large proportion of the total lipid mass. These glycolipids have been implicated in a range of developmental processes such as cell differentiation and myelination initiation, but analyses of mice lacking UDP-galactose:ceramide galactosyltransferase (CGT), the enzyme required for myelin galactolipid synthesis, have more recently demonstrated that the galactolipids more subtly regulate myelin formation. The CGT mutants display a delay in myelin maturation and axo-glial interactions develop abnormally. By interbreeding the CGT mutants with mice that lack myelin-associated glycoprotein, it has been shown that these specialized myelin lipids and proteins act in concert to promote axo-glial adhesion during myelinogenesis. The analysis of the CGT mutants is helping to clarify the roles myelin galactolipids play in regulating the development, and ultimately the function of the myelin sheath.

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