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Mol Cell Neurosci. 2006 Mar;31(3):525-38. Epub 2005 Dec 20.

Inhibition of sphingolipid synthesis affects kinetics but not fidelity of L1/NgCAM transport along direct but not transcytotic axonal pathways.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Virginia, 409 Lane Road, MR4-6112, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


Glycosphingolipids are constituents of lipid rafts which might function in sorting apical and axonal cargoes in the trans-Golgi network. In fact, two GPI-linked proteins, Thy1 and PrPC, require lipid raft lipids for sorting to the axon. It was previously shown that inhibition of glycosphingolipid synthesis by FumonisinB1 (FB1) impairs axon outgrowth but not axon specification, leading to the hypothesis that formation of axonally-targeted vesicles is coupled to sphingolipid synthesis. Since the axonal cell adhesion molecule L1/NgCAM can partition into membrane rafts biochemically, we asked whether correct targeting to the axon is FB1-sensitive, similarly to GPI-linked proteins. We previously showed that cultured hippocampal neurons use more than one trafficking pathway to the axon: a transcytotic pathway and a direct pathway. We show here that reducing raft lipid levels does not disrupt axonal targeting of L1/NgCAM along either pathway. Unexpectedly, FB1 selectively slowed the kinetics of surface expression of a truncated NgCAM using the direct pathway, but not of NgCAM using the transcytotic pathway. Therefore, the formation and/or transport of a subset of axonally-targeted vesicles are coupled to sphingolipid synthesis. Our results yield a mechanism for the axon outgrowth defect observed in FB1.

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