Glycoconjugate Journal

, Volume 29, Issue 8–9, pp 585–597 | Cite as

Ionizing radiations increase the activity of the cell surface glycohydrolases and the plasma membrane ceramide content

  • Massimo Aureli
  • Rosaria Bassi
  • Alessandro Prinetti
  • Elena Chiricozzi
  • Brigida Pappalardi
  • Vanna Chigorno
  • Nadia Di Muzio
  • Nicoletta Loberto
  • Sandro SonninoEmail author


We detected significant levels of β-glucosidase, β-galactosidase, sialidase Neu3 and sphingomyelinase activities associated with the plasma membrane of fibroblasts from normal and Niemann-Pick subjects and of cells from breast, ovary, colon and neuroblastoma tumors in culture. All of the cells subjected to ionizing radiations showed an increase of the activity of plasma membrane β-glucosidase, β-galactosidase and sialidase Neu3, in addition of the well known increase of activity of plasma membrane sphingomyelinase, under similar conditions. Human breast cancer cell line T47D was studied in detail. In these cells the increase of activity of β-glucosidase and β-galactosidase was parallel to the increase of irradiation dose up to 60 Gy and continued with time, at least up to 72 h from irradiation. β-glucosidase increased up to 17 times and β-galactosidase up to 40 times with respect to control. Sialidase Neu3 and sphingomyelinase increased about 2 times at a dose of 20 Gy but no further significant differences were observed with increase of radiation dose and time. After irradiation, we observed a reduction of cell proliferation, an increase of apoptotic cell death and an increase of plasma membrane ceramide up to 3 times, with respect to control cells. Tritiated GM3 ganglioside has been administered to T47D cells under conditions that prevented the lysosomal catabolism. GM3 became component of the plasma membranes and was transformed into LacCer, GlcCer and ceramide. The quantity of ceramide produced in irradiated cells was about two times that of control cells.


Ceramide Glycosidases Plasma membrane Apoptosis Radiations Radiotherapy 



This work was supported by grant PRIN (Italy) to S.S.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Massimo Aureli
    • 1
  • Rosaria Bassi
    • 1
  • Alessandro Prinetti
    • 1
  • Elena Chiricozzi
    • 1
  • Brigida Pappalardi
    • 2
  • Vanna Chigorno
    • 1
  • Nadia Di Muzio
    • 2
  • Nicoletta Loberto
    • 1
  • Sandro Sonnino
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Medical Chemistry, Biochemistry and BiotechnologyUniversity of MilanMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of RadiotherapyHospital San RaffaeleMilanItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Chimica, Biochimica e Biotecnologie per la MedicinaUniversità degli Studi di MilanoSegrateItaly

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