Plasma membrane production of ceramide from ganglioside GM3 in human fibroblasts

Rea Valaperta, Vanna Chigorno, Luisa Basso, Alessandro Prinetti, Roberto Bresciani, Augusto Preti, Taeko Miyagi, Sandro Sonnino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ceramide is a key lipid molecule necessary to regulate some cellular processes, including apoptosis and cell differentiation. In this context, its production has been shown to occur via sphingomyelin hydrolysis or sphingosine acylation. Here, we show that in human fibroblasts, plasma membrane ceramide is also produced from ganglioside GM3 by detachment of sugar units. Membrane-bound glycosylhydrolases have a role in this process. In fact, the production of ceramide from GM3 has been observed even under experimental conditions able to block endocytosis or lysosomal activity, and the overexpression of the plasma membrane ganglioside sialidase Neu3 corresponded to a higher production of ceramide in the plasma membrane. The increased activity of Neu3 was paralleled by an increase of GM3 synthase mRNA and GM3 synthase activity. Neu3-overexpressing fibroblasts were characterized by a reduced proliferation rate and higher basal number of apoptotic cells in comparison with wild-type cells. A similar behavior was observed when normal fibroblasts were treated with exogenous C2-ceramide.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006


  • Apoptosis
  • Glycosylhydrolases
  • GM3 synthase
  • Neu3
  • Plasma membrane-associated sialidase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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