Elevated ganglioside GM2 activator (GM2A) in human brain tissue reduces neurite integrity and spontaneous neuronal activity

Mol Neurodegener. 2022 Sep 21;17(1):61. doi: 10.1186/s13024-022-00558-4.


Background: Alzheimer's Disease (AD) affects millions globally, but therapy development is lagging. New experimental systems that monitor neuronal functions in conditions approximating the AD brain may be beneficial for identifying new therapeutic strategies.

Methods: We expose cultured neurons to aqueous-soluble human brain extract from 43 individuals across a spectrum of AD pathology. Multi-electrode arrays (MEAs) and live-cell imaging were used to assess neuronal firing and neurite integrity (NI), respectively, following treatments of rat cortical neurons (MEA) and human iPSC-derived neurons (iN) with human brain extracts.

Results: We observe associations between spontaneous activity and Aβ42:40 levels, between neurite integrity and oligomeric Aβ, and between neurite integrity and tau levels present in the brain extracts. However, these associations with Aβ and tau do not fully account for the effects observed. Proteomic profiling of the brain extracts revealed additional candidates correlated with neuronal structure and activity. Neurotoxicity in MEA and NI assays was associated with proteins implicated in lysosomal storage disorders, while neuroprotection was associated with proteins of the WAVE regulatory complex controlling actin cytoskeleton dynamics. Elevated ganglioside GM2 activator (GM2A) associates with reductions in both NI and MEA activity, and cell-derived GM2A alone is sufficient to induce a loss of neurite integrity and a reduction in neuronal firing.

Conclusions: The techniques and data herein introduce a system for modeling neuronal vulnerability in response to factors in the human brain and provide insights into proteins potentially contributing to AD pathogenesis.

Keywords: ABI1; ABI2; Alzheimer’s; Aβ; GM2A; HEXA; LOAD; MEA; Proteomics; Sex; Tau; WAVE.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • G(M2) Ganglioside / metabolism
  • Gangliosides / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurites* / metabolism
  • Neurites* / pathology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteomics
  • Rats
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Gangliosides
  • Proteins
  • tau Proteins
  • G(M2) Ganglioside