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Developmental Changes in Ganglioside Composition and Synthesis in Embryonic Rat Brain


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. R. K. Yu at Department of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06510, U.S.A.


Abstract: Developmental changes in ganglioside composition and biosynthesis were studied in rat brain between embryonic day (E) 14 and birth. In E14 brains, GM3 and GD3 were predominant. At E16, “b” series gangliosides, such as GD1b, GT1b, and GQ1b, increased in content. After E18, “a” series gangliosides such as GM1, GD1a, and GT1a increased in content, and the content of GM3 and GD3 markedly decreased. Because of these changes in composition, we determined the activities, in homogenates of embryonic brains, of two key enzymes of ganglioside synthesis: sialyltransferase for the synthesis of GD3 from GM3 and N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase for GM2 synthesis from GM3. The sialyltransferase activity (GM3 → GD3) was constant between E14 and E18 but decreased rapidly from E18 to birth. In contrast, the N-acetylgalacto-saminyltransferase activity (GM3 ± GM2) increased between E14 and E18 but was constant from E18 to birth. These changes in ganglioside composition and enzymatic activities indicate that during development there is a shift from synthesis of the simplest gangliosides of the “a” and “b” pathways to synthesis of the more complex gangliosides.