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J Oleo Sci. 2011;60(10):537-44.

Structures, biosynthesis, and functions of gangliosides--an overview.

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Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics and Institute of Neuroscience, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Health Sciences University, Agusta 30912, USA.


Gangliosides are sialic acid-containing glycosphingolipids that are most abundant in the nervous system. Heterogeneity and diversity of the structures in their carbohydrate chains are characteristic hallmarks of these lipids; so far, 188 gangliosides with different carbohydrate structures have been identified in vertebrates. The molecular structural complexity increases manifold if one considers heterogeneity in the lipophilic components. The expression levels and patterns of brain gangliosides are known to change drastically during development. In cells, gangliosides are primarily, but not exclusively, localized in the outer leaflets of plasma membranes and are integral components of cell surface microdomains with sphingomyelin and cholesterol from which they participate in cell-cell recognition, adhesion, and signal transduction. In this brief review, we discuss the structures, metabolism and functions of gangliosides.

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