The mucopolysaccharidoses (MPSs) are a complex family of lysosomal storage disorders characterized by failure to degrade heparan sulfate (HS) and/or other types of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) secondary to the absence of specific lysosomal enzymes. An accompanying storage of glycosphingolipids (GSLs), most notably GM2 and GM3 gangliosides, has also been documented to occur in many types of MPS disease and is believed to be caused by secondary inhibition of GSL-degradative enzymes by intracellular GAG accumulation. We have documented the presence of secondary ganglioside accumulation in mouse models of several MPS disorders (types I, IIIA, IIIB, and VII) and report that this storage is accompanied by sequestration of free cholesterol in a manner similar to that observed in primary gangliosidoses. Using confocal microscopy, we evaluated the cellular distribution of cholesterol, GM2 and GM3 gangliosides, and HS in brains of mice with MPS IIIA disease. Unexpectedly, we found that although both gangliosides often accumulated in the same neurons, they were consistently located in separate populations of cytoplasmic vesicles. Additionally, GM3 ganglioside only partially co-localized with the primary storage material (HS), and cholesterol likewise only partially co-localized with the GM2 and GM3 gangliosides. These findings raise significant questions about the mechanism(s) responsible for secondary accumulation of storage materials in MPS disease. Furthermore, given that GSLs and cholesterol are constituents of membrane rafts believed critical in signal transduction events in neurons, their co-sequestration in individual neurons suggests the presence of defects in the composition, trafficking, and/or recycling of raft components and thus possible new mechanisms to explain neuronal dysfunction in MPS disorders.
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