, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 679–688 | Cite as

Targeting of tumor-associated gangliosides with antibodies affects signaling pathways and leads to cell death including apoptosis

  • Irena Horwacik
  • Hanna Rokita


Gangliosides are a diverse group of sialic acid containing glycosphigolipids that are abundantly present in an outer plasma membrane of some cells. Biological roles of gangliosides and other lipids in cell fate regulation are being extensively studied. Gangliosides are well known to be involved in interactions between cells and in signal transduction to regulate growth, adhesion and motility. Moreover, many gangliosides are tumor-associated antigens over-expressed on several tumor types. As a result, monoclonal antibodies binding gangliosides can be used to diagnose, monitor and to treat cancer patients. In the review, we gather and discuss data of various research groups on direct cytotoxic effects elicited by several ganglioside-specific antibodies, which bind to GM2, N-acetyl-GM2, N-glycolyl-GM2, GM3, GD3, GD2, O-acetyl-GD2, without involvement of immunological mechanisms. Thus, in cultures of numerous human and mouse cancer cell lines, the antibodies were reported to cause morphological changes, aggregation and detachment of cells, inhibition of proliferation and cell death involving necrosis, apoptosis and oncosis-like mechanisms. Additionally, data on proteome alterations were reviewed that encompass, among others, changes in kinome (P38, JNK, c-MET, ERK1/2, PI3K, AKT, FAK, aurora A, B, C), protein levels of transcription factors (P53, MYCN, HSF1) and pro-apoptotic proteins (caspase 3, BAX). Next, we collected data on application of the antibodies to enhance cytotoxicity of chemotherapeutic drugs and small molecule inhibitors. Finally, further research perspectives on the topic are discussed.


Glycosphingolipid Ganglioside Cell death Apoptosis Antibody Cancer 



This work was supported by Grants no.: NCN-2012/07/B/NZ1/02808 from the Polish National Science Center (HR) and DS/8/WBBiB. Faculty of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Biotechnology is a partner of the Leading National Research Center (KNOW) supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Molecular Genetics and Virology, Faculty of Biochemistry, Biophysics and BiotechnologyJagiellonian UniversityKrakówPoland

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