The Gangliosides

  • Herbert Wiegandt
Part of the Advances in Neurochemistry book series (ANCH, volume 4)


Gangliosides are glycosphingolipids that contain sialic acid (N-acetyl- or N-glycolylneuraminic acid). They have elicited much interest since their discovery for a number of reasons. Gangliosides are typically found as membrane constituents in brain, a finding that suggests a specific functional role in the central nervous system (CNS). Furthermore, it has long been recognized that certain lipidoses that affect the nervous system, such as Tay Sachs disease, are characterized by ganglioside accumulation within cells of the brain. Further evidence for involvement of gangliosides in nervous system function is indicated by the behavior of the neurotoxin of Clostridium tetani. This toxin is specifically absorbed by the brain, and the property is believed to relate to the brain’s ganglioside content (Wassermann and Takaki, 1898; W. E. van Heyningen, 1974). The elucidation of the chemical composition of sialic acid was accompanied by the recognition that it has specific biological properties and that the gangliosides are frequently the glycoconjugate carrier. More recently, it has become evident that gangliosides are ubiquitous, i.e., occurring not only in the nervous system, and should be considered important constituents of the surface membrane of most, perhaps all, animal cells of Deuterostomia.


Sialic Acid Cholera Toxin Sialic Acid Residue Tetanus Toxin Sialidase Activity 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herbert Wiegandt
    • 1
  1. 1.Physiologisch Chemisches InstitutPhilipps Universität MarburgMarburgGerman Federal Republic

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