Sphingolipid dyshomeostasis in the brain of the mouse model of mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIA

Mol Genet Metab. 2020 Feb;129(2):111-116. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2019.08.008. Epub 2019 Aug 29.


Gangliosides are complex glycosphingolipids that are vital for proper brain development and function. Alterations in ganglioside metabolism are evident in neurological disorders including the inherited metabolic disease mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIA (MPS IIIA/Sanfilippo A syndrome). Here we sought to comprehensively analyse alterations in ganglioside metabolism within the brain of a naturally occurring MPS IIIA mouse model at early (one month) and late (six months of age) stages of disease progression, as well as the impact on related sphingolipids in the ganglioside metabolic pathway. The simple gangliosides GM2 and GM3 were elevated in the brain stem, cerebellum and sub-cortex of the MPS IIIA mouse at one month of age, but not in the cortex. By six months accumulation was significant throughout the brain, with GD2 gangliosides also elevated. Elevations in other sphingolipids were limited to the upstream synthetic precursors, ceramide and dihexosylceramide (DHC) species containing 18:0 and 20:0 acyl chains, likely due to the abundance of these fatty acids in the elevated gangliosides. In contrast, sphingomyelin, sulphatide and DHC containing a 24:1 fatty acid, were all decreased in the brain stem of the MPS IIIA mice, suggestive of alterations in myelination. These perturbations in sphingolipid metabolism could provide an avenue for therapeutic intervention by manipulation with specific drugs that target the production of these lipids.

Keywords: Gangliosides; Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIA; Neurodegeneration; Sanfilippo syndrome; Sphingolipids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gangliosides / analysis
  • Gangliosides / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mucopolysaccharidosis III / complications
  • Mucopolysaccharidosis III / pathology*


  • Gangliosides