Evidence for the existence of ganglioside-enriched plasma membrane domains in human peripheral lymphocytes

J Lipid Res. 1997 May;38(5):969-80.


In human peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) monosialoganglioside GM3 appears to be the major ganglioside on the cell plasma membrane. We have analyzed the expression and distribution pattern of GM3 molecules on the lymphocyte plasma membrane by flow cytometry, immunofluorescence, and immunoelectron microscopy, using an anti-GM3 monoclonal antibody. Both CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocyte subpopulations showed substantial GM3 expression, as determined by thin-layer chromatography and flow cytometric analysis. A clustered distribution of GM3 molecules on the cell surface, revealed by immunofluorescence and immunogold electron microscopy, clearly indicated the presence of GM3 molecule-enriched plasma membrane domains. To better define these domains, we analyzed the ganglioside and protein composition of buoyant low-density Triton-insoluble (LDTI) lymphocyte fractions. The results show that GM3 is enriched approximately 20-fold in LDTI fraction, as compared with total cell lysates. In addition, CD4 and lck molecules are selectively recovered in the same LDTI fraction isolated from human PBL. These findings, together with the observation that anti-CD4 co-immunoprecipitated GM3, support the hypothesis of a possible GM3-CD4 interaction and suggest a role for gangliosides as structural components of the membrane multimolecular signaling complex involved in T-cell activation, antigen recognition, and other dynamic lymphocytic plasma membrane functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / ultrastructure
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / ultrastructure
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • G(M3) Ganglioside / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron


  • G(M3) Ganglioside