Diversity of glycosphingolipid GM2 and cholesterol accumulation in NPC1 patient-specific iPSC-derived neurons

Brain Res. 2017 Feb 15;1657:52-61. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2016.11.031. Epub 2016 Dec 5.


Niemann-Pick disease Type C1 (NPC1) is a rare progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by mutations in the NPC1 gene. On the cellular level NPC1 mutations lead to an accumulation of cholesterol and gangliosides. As a thorough analysis of the severely affected neuronal cells is unfeasible in NPC1 patients, we recently described the cellular phenotype of neuronal cells derived from NPC1 patient iPSCs carrying the compound heterozygous mutation c.1836A>C/c.1628delC. Here we expanded the analysis to cell lines carrying the prevalent mutation c.3182T>C and the novel mutation c.1180T>C, as well as to the determination of GM2 and GM3 gangliosides in NPC1 patient-specific iPSC-derived neurons and glia cells. Immunocytochemical detection of GM2 revealed punctated staining pattern predominantly localized in neurons. Detection of cholesterol by filipin staining showed a comparable staining pattern, colocalized with GM2, indicating a deposit of GM2 and cholesterol in the same cellular compartments. Accumulations were not only restricted to cell bodies, but were also found in the neuronal extensions. A quantification of the GM2 amount by HPLC-MS/MS confirmed significantly higher amounts in neurons carrying a mutation. Additionally, these cells displayed a lowered activity of the catabolic enzyme Hex A, but not B4GALNT1. Molecular docking simulations indicated binding of cholesterol to Hex A, suggesting cholesterol influences the GM2 degradation pathway and, subsequently, leading to the accumulation of GM2. Taken together, this is the first study showing an accumulation of GM2 in neuronal derivatives of patient-specific iPSCs and thus proving further disease-specific hallmarks in this human in vitro model of NPC1.

Keywords: Cholesterol; GM2; Glycosphingolipids; Molecular docking; Niemann-Pick disease Type C1; iPSC-derived neurons; iPSCs.

MeSH terms

  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • G(M2) Ganglioside / metabolism*
  • G(M3) Ganglioside / metabolism
  • Hexosaminidase A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / pathology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Mutation
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neural Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / pathology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Niemann-Pick Disease, Type C / genetics
  • Niemann-Pick Disease, Type C / metabolism*
  • Niemann-Pick Disease, Type C / pathology


  • Carrier Proteins
  • G(M3) Ganglioside
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • NPC1 protein, human
  • G(M2) Ganglioside
  • Cholesterol
  • Hexosaminidase A