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J Lipid Res. 2011 Jul;52(7):1345-51. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M012633. Epub 2011 Apr 20.

Filipin recognizes both GM1 and cholesterol in GM1 gangliosidosis mouse brain.

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Department of Biology, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA.


Filipin is an antibiotic polyene widely used as a histochemical marker for cholesterol. We previously reported cholesterol/filipin-positive staining in brain of β-galactosidase (β-gal) knockout ((-/-)) mice (GM1 gangliosidosis). The content and distribution of cholesterol and gangliosides was analyzed in plasma membrane (PM) and microsomal (MS) fractions from whole-brain tissue of 15 week-old control (β-gal(+/-)) and GM1 gangliosidosis (β-gal(-/-)) mice. Total ganglioside content (μg sialic acid/mg protein) was 3-fold and 7-fold greater in the PM and MS fractions, respectively, in βgal(-/-) mice than in βgal(+/-) mice. GM1 content was 30-fold and 50-fold greater in the PM and MS fractions, respectively. In contrast, unesterified cholesterol content (μg/mg protein) was similar in the PM and the MS fractions of the βgal(-/-) and βgal(+/-) mice. Filipin is known to bind to various sterol derivatives and phospholipids on thin-layer chromatograms. Biochemical evidence is presented showing that filipin also binds to GM1 with an affinity similar to that for cholesterol, with a corresponding fluorescent reaction. Our data suggest that the GM1 storage seen in the β-gal(-/-) mouse contributes to the filipin ultraviolet fluorescence observed in GM1 gangliosidosis brain. The data indicate that in addition to cholesterol, filipin can also be useful for detecting GM1.

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