Gangliosides as a potential new class of stem cell markers: The case of GD1a in human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells

Sonia Bergante, Enrica Torretta, Pasquale Creo, Nadia Sessarego, Nadia Papini, Marco Piccoli, Chiara Fania, Federica Cirillo, Erika Conforti, Andrea Ghiroldi, Cristina Tringali, Bruno Venerando, Adalberto Ibatici, Cecilia Gelfi, Guido Tettamanti, Luigi Anastasia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Owing to their exposure on the cell surface and the possibility of being directly recognized with specific antibodies, glycosphingolipids have aroused great interest in the field of stem cell biology. In the search for specific markers of the differentiation of human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (hBMSCs ) toward osteoblasts, we studied their glycosphingolipid pattern, with particular attention to gangliosides. After lipid extraction and fractionation, gangliosides, metabolically 3H-labeled in the sphingosine moiety, were separated by high-performance TLC and chemically characterized by MALDI MS. Upon induction of osteogenic differentiation, a 3-fold increase of ganglioside GD1a was observed. Therefore, the hypothesis of GD1a involvement in hBMSCs commitment toward the osteogenic phenotype was tested by comparison of the osteogenic propensity of GD1a-highly expressing versus GD1a-low expressing hBMSCs and direct addition of GD1a in the differentiation medium. It was found that either the high expression of GD1a in hBMSCs or the addition of GD1a in the differentiation medium favored osteogenesis, providing a remarkable increase of alkaline phosphatase. It was also observed that ganglioside GD2, although detectable in hBMSCs by immunohistochemistry with an anti-GD2 antibody, could not be recognized by chemical analysis, likely reflecting a case, not uncommon, of molecular mimicry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-560
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Lipid Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Osteogenic differentiation
  • Sphingolipids
  • Stem cells characterization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Endocrinology


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