Sulfocerebrosides upregulate liposome uptake in human astrocytes without inducing a proinflammatory response


Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de los Andes. Carrera, 1 No 18a-10, Edificio Q-Piso 8, Bogotá, DC 111711, Colombia. E-mail:


Astrocytes are involved in the pathogenesis of demyelinating diseases, where they actively regulate the secretion of proinflammatory factors, and trigger the recruitment of immune cells in the central nervous system (CNS). Antigen presentation of myelin-derived proteins has been shown to trigger astrocyte response, suggesting that astrocytes can directly sense demyelination. However, the direct response of astrocytes to lipid-debris generated during demyelination has not been investigated. The lipid composition of the myelin sheath is distinct, presenting significant amounts of cerebrosides, sulfocerebrosides (SCB), and ceramides. Studies have shown that microglia are activated in the presence of myelin-derived lipids, pointing to the possibility of lipid-induced astrocyte activation. In this study, a human astrocyte cell line was exposed to liposomes enriched in each myelin lipid component. Although liposome uptake was observed for all compositions, astrocytes had augmented uptake for liposomes containing sulfocerebroside (SCB). This enhanced uptake did not modify their expression of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) molecules or secretion of chemokines. This was in contrast to changes observed in astrocyte cells stimulated with IFNγ. Contrary to human monocytes, astrocytes did not internalize beads in the size-range of liposomes, indicating that liposome uptake is lipid specific. Epifluorescence microscopy corroborated that liposome uptake takes place through endocytosis. Soluble SCB were found to partially block uptake of liposomes containing this same lipid. Endocytosis was not decreased when cells were treated with cytochalasin D, but it was decreased by cold temperature incubation. The specific uptake of SCB in the absence of a proinflammatory response indicates that astrocytes may participate in the trafficking and regulation of sulfocerebroside metabolism and homeostasis in the CNS. © 2013 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry