Sulfatide is essential for the maintenance of CNS myelin and axon structure

Glia. 2006 Mar;53(4):372-81. doi: 10.1002/glia.20292.


Galactocerebroside (GalC) and sulfatide are abundant myelin lipids. In mice incapable of synthesizing these lipids, myelin is thin and regionally unstable and exhibits several subtle structural abnormalities. Although galactolipid-null mice have been beneficial in the analysis of galactolipid function, it has not been possible to differentiate between the functions of GalC and sulfatide with these mice alone. In the present work, we have analyzed a murine model that forms normal levels of GalC but is incapable of synthesizing sulfatide. By comparing a plethora of morphological features between the galactolipid-null and the sulfatide-null mice, we have begun to differentiate between the specific functions of these closely related lipids. The most striking difference between these two mutants is the reduction of myelin developmental abnormalities (e.g., redundant and uncompacted myelin sheaths) in young adult sulfatide-null mice as compared with the galactolipid-null animals. Although sulfatide appears to play a limited role in myelin development, this lipid is essential for myelin maintenance, as the prevalence of redundant, uncompacted, and degenerating myelin sheaths as well as deteriorating nodal/paranodal structure is increased significantly in aged sulfatide-null mice as compared with littermate wildtype mice. Finally, we show that the role played by sulfatide in CNS maintenance is not limited to the myelin sheath, as axonal caliber and circularity are normal in young adult mutant mice but are significantly altered in aged sulfatide-null animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Central Nervous System / cytology*
  • Central Nervous System / growth & development
  • Central Nervous System / ultrastructure
  • Galactosylceramides / genetics
  • Galactosylceramides / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology*
  • Myelin Sheath / ultrastructure
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sulfoglycosphingolipids / pharmacology*
  • Sulfotransferases / metabolism


  • Galactosylceramides
  • Sulfoglycosphingolipids
  • galactocerebroside
  • Sulfotransferases
  • galactosylceramide sulfotransferase