Ganglioside/glycosphingolipid turnover: New concepts

G. Tettamanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this review focus is given to the metabolic turnover of gangliosides/glycosphingolipids. The metabolism and accompanying intracellular trafficking of gangliosides/glycosphingolipids is illustrated with particular attention to the following events: (a) the de novo biosynthesis in the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus, followed by vesicular sorting to the plasma membrane; (b) the enzyme-assisted chemical modifications occurring at the plasma membrane level; (c) the internalization via endocytosis and recycling to the plasma membrane; (d) the direct glycosylations taking place after sorting from endosomes to the Golgi apparatus; (e) the degradation at the late endosomal/lysosomal level with formation of fragments of sugar (glucose, galactose, hexosamine, sialic acid) and lipid (ceramide, sphingosine, fatty acid) nature; (f) the metabolic recycling of these fragments for biosynthetic purposes (salvage pathways); and (g) further degradation of fragments to waste products. Noteworthy, the correct course of ganglioside/glycosphingolipid metabolism requires the presence of the vimentin intracellular filament net work, likely to assist intracellular transport of sphingoid molecules. Out of the above events those that can be quantitatively evaluated with acceptable reliability are the processes of de novo biosynthesis, metabolic salvage and direct glycosylation. Depending on the cultured cells employed, the percentage of distribution of de novo biosynthesis, salvage pathways, and direct glycosylation, over total metabolism were reported to be: 35% (range: 10-90%) for de novo biosynthesis, 7% (range: 5-10%) for direct glycosylation, and 58% (range: 10-90%) for salvage pathways. The attempts made to calculate the half-life of overall ganglioside turnover provided data of unsure reliability, especially because in many studies salvage pathways were not taken into consideration. The values of half-life range from 2 to 6.5 h to 3 days depending on the cells used. Available evidence for changes of ganglioside/ glycosphingolipid turnover, due to extracellular stimuli, is also considered and discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-317
Number of pages17
JournalGlycoconjugate Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Ganglioside metabolism
  • Ganglioside turnover
  • Glycosphingolipid salvage pathways
  • Glycosphingolipid signalling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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