Previous studies have shown that patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome express autoantibodies against ganglioside GM1 (GM1), although its pathogenic significance for the development of the disease remains to be elucidated. nSMase2 is the best characterized neutral sphingomyelinase (nSMase) found in neuronal cells. Activation of this enzyme leads to ceramide production, which is a known second messenger of the cell-death program in neuronal cells. We have explored the effects of anti-GM1 antibodies on sphingomyelin metabolism of PC12 cells stably transfected with human trk cDNA (PCtrk cells) by determining their effects on nSMase2 activity. The data we present here strongly suggest that anti-GM1 caused a significant change in sphingomyelin content of the membrane fraction in PCtrk cells. Both nSMase2 activity and the level of nSMase2 protein were significantly decreased by anti-GM1 treatment of PCtrk cells, while acidic SMase activities remained unchanged. Our results indicate, for the first time, that anti-GM1 may produce profound impacts on lipid metabolism in neuronal cell membranes.
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