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The biosynthesis of ganglioside molecular species containing sphingosine of different structure was investigated by administrating rat cerebellar granule cells in culture with [1-14C]palmitic and [1-14C]stearic acids which are the precursors for sphingosine biosynthesis. The incorporation of radioactivity into the sphingosine of the ganglioside species containing C20:1 sphingosine after administrating [1-14C]stearic acid was low in comparison with the incorporation of radioactivity into the sphingosine of ganglioside species containing C18:1 sphingosine after administration of [1-14C]palmitic acid, but the ratio between the radioactivity incorporated in the C20:1 and the C18:1 sphingosine of C20 and C18 ganglioside species progressively increased when the cell culture was prolonged. Ceramide-containing radioactive sphingosine was found after palmitic or stearic acid administration. Ceramide-containing C20:1 sphingosine found after adding stearic acid was about 5% of that synthesized starting from palmitic acid and containing C18:1 sphingosine. Free radioactive C18:1 and C20:1 sphingosine were found after adding radioactive palmitic or stearic acid. This is representative of a catabolic process occurring after biosynthesis of the complex sphingolipid starting from the radioactive precursor. In fact it has been proved that only saturated sphingosines are used for the synthesis of complex sphingolipids, the introduction of the double bond at position four of the sphingoid chain occurring at the level of ceramide [Rother, J., van Echten, G., Schwarzmann, G. & Sandhoff, K. (1992) Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 189, 14-20]. Saturated sphingosines were not present. The lack of free C20:0 sphingosine confirms the hypothesis that the C20:0 sphingosine synthesis and the process (C20:0 sphingosine-->C20:0 ceramide-->C20:1 ceramide) occur in the correct quantity for the synthesis of C20:1 gangliosides. Moreover, we found only traces of free C20:1 sphingosine, at days 8 and 15 of cell culture when the biosynthesis of complex C20:1 gangliosides and the related catabolic processes occur to a higher extent, thus excluding the idea that a large amount of C20:0 sphingosine can be acylated to C20:0 ceramide and dehydrogenated to C20:1 ceramide which, being not used for ganglioside biosynthesis, is immediately catabolised to C20:1 sphingosine.


V Chigorno, M Valsecchi, S Sonnino. Biosynthesis of gangliosides containing C18:1 and C20:1 [3-14C]sphingosine after administrating [1-14C]palmitic acid and [1-14C]stearic acid to rat cerebellar granule cells in culture. European journal of biochemistry / FEBS. 1994 May 1;221(3):1095-101

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PMID: 8181467

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