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Ganglioside GM2 synthase and other enzymes required for complex ganglioside synthesis were localized recently to the trans Golgi network (TGN). However, there are conflicting reports as to the location of GM3 synthase; originally this enzyme was detected in the early Golgi of rat liver but a recent report localized it to the late Golgi. We have used chimeric forms of ganglioside GM2 synthase to determine if the location of lactosylceramide (LacCer) to GM3 conversion in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells was the early or late Golgi. Our approach tested whether GM3 could be utilized as a substrate by GM2 synthase chimeras which were targeted to compartments earlier than the trans Golgi, i.e., GM3 produced in the cis Golgi should be utilized by GM2 synthase located anywhere in the Golgi whereas GM3 produced in the trans Golgi should only be used by GM2 synthase located in the trans Golgi or TGN. Comparison of cell lines stably expressing these chimeras revealed that the in vivo functional activity of GM2 synthase decreased progressively as the enzyme was targeted to earlier compartments; specifically, the percentage of GM3 converted to GM2 was 83-86% for wild type enzyme, 70% for the medial Golgi targeted enzyme, 13% for the ER and cis Golgi targeted enzyme, and only 1.7% for the ER targeted enzyme. Thus, these data are consistent with a late Golgi location for LacCer to GM3 conversion in these cells.


M L Allende, J Li, D S Darling, C A Worth, W W Young. Evidence supporting a late Golgi location for lactosylceramide to ganglioside GM3 conversion. Glycobiology. 2000 Oct;10(10):1025-32

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PMID: 11030748

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