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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1995 Jan 3;1254(1):56-65.

Sequential changes in glycolipid expression during human B cell differentiation: enzymatic bases.

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Laboratoire de Biologie des Tumeurs Humaines, CNRS URA 1156, Institut G. Roussy, Villejuif, France.


We have previously reported that human B cell differentiation is accompanied by sequential changes in glycosphingolipid expression. Pre-B cells contain lacto-series type II chain-based glycolipids and GM3 ganglioside; mature/activated B cells do not synthesize lacto-series compounds but express GM3 and globo-series glycolipids (Gb3 and Gb4); terminally differentiated B cells, in addition to these compounds, also contain GM2 ganglioside. At the cell surface, Gb3, Gb4 and GM2 constitute stage-specific antigens. To elucidate the biosynthetic mechanism leading to these modifications we have compared activities of the glycosyltransferases involved in the core structure assembly and the first elongation steps of neo-lacto, ganglio- and globo-series glycolipids. These glycosyltransferase activities have been measured in B cell lines and normal B lymphocytes at various stages of differentiation. We first determined the optimal requirements of the four glycosyltransferases which synthesize Lc3, GM3, Gb4 and GM2 glycolipids in B lymphocytes and then tested these enzymes and the Gb3 synthetase in the selected B cells. The following results were obtained: beta 1-->3 N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferase (Lc3 synthetase) has a high activity in pro- and pre-B cells whereas it is undetectable in more differentiated cells; alpha 2-->3 sialytransferase (GM3 synthetase) is activated from the pre-B cell stage to the terminally differentiated myeloma cells; alpha 1-->4 galactosyltransferase (Gb3 synthetase) is only detected in cells representing the late stages of B cell differentiation; beta 1-->3 N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferase (Gb4 synthetase) is only found in some lymphoblastoid cell lines, representative of activated B cells whereas the beta 1-->4 N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferase (GM2 synthetase) has a high activity in these lymphoblastoid cell lines and in terminally differentiated myeloma cells. These results suggest that the sequential shifts in the three major glycosphingolipid series observed during B cell differentiation are mostly due to sequential activations of the corresponding glycosyltransferases.

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