Drastically Abnormal Gluco- and Galactosylceramide Composition Does Not Affect Ganglioside Metabolism in the Brain of Mice Deficient in Galactosylceramide Synthase*

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Mice that are genetically deficient in UDP-galactose: ceramide galactosyltransferase are unable to synthesize galactosylceramide. Consequently, sulfatide, which can be synthesized only by sulfation of galactosylceramide, is also totally absent in affected mouse brain. α-Hydroxy fatty acid-containing glucosylceramide partially replaces the missing galactosylceramide. A substantial proportion of sphingomyelin, which normally contains only non-hydroxy fatty acids, also contains α-hydroxy fatty acids. These findings indicate that α-hydroxy fatty acid-containing ceramide normally present only in galactosylceramide and sulfatide is diverted to other compounds because they cannot be synthesized into galactosylceramide due to the lack of the galactosyltransferase. We have examined brain gangliosides in order to determine if α-hydroxy fatty acid-containing glucosylceramide present in an abnormally high concentration is also incorporated into gangliosides. The brain ganglioside composition, however, is entirely normal in both the total amount and molecular distribution in these mice. One feasible explanation is that UDP-galactose: glucosylceramide galactosyltransferase does not recognize α-hydroxy fatty acid-containing glucosylceramide as acceptor. This analytical finding is consistent with the relative sparing of gray matter in the affected mice and provides an insight into sphingolipid metabolism in the mouse brain.

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