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Scand J Immunol. 1995 Feb;41(2):148-56.

Monosialoganglioside GM3 induces CD4 internalization in human peripheral blood T lymphocytes.

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Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Università di Roma La Sapienza, Italy.


Gangliosides modulate the expression of CD4 molecules on the cell surface of T lymphocytes. We report here that treatment of human peripheral blood lymphocytes with exogenous monosialoganglioside GM3 induces a rapid down-modulation of the CD4 molecules on the plasma membrane of CD4+ T lymphocytes, as assessed by cytofluorimetric analysis and quantitative immunoelectron microscopy. The CD4 down-modulation was ganglioside-dose dependent and was already evident after 5 min of treatment, reaching the maximum after 20 min. The expression of other surface antigens was not affected by GM3 treatment. The immunoelectron microscopic analysis showed that, following GM3 addition, gold labelled CD4 molecules were rapidly redistributed on the cell surface, clustered and internalized via endocytic pits and vesicles. These results indicate that CD4 down-modulation induced by GM3 occurs through an endocytic mechanism. A persistent low level of CD4 expression on the cell surface up to 24 h after GM3 treatment, compared with a stable expression of either CD4 in untreated cells and CD3 in GM3-treated cells, suggests intracellular degradation of the internalized CD4 molecules.

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