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Journal of Neural Transplantation and Plasticity
Volume 3 (1992), Issue 1, Pages 1-19

Behavioral Effects of Gangliosides: Anatomical Considerations

Cellular Transplants, Inc., Four Richmond Square, Providence, RI 02906, USA

Copyright © 1992 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Gangliosides are endogenous sialic acid containing glycospingolipids which are highly concentrated in the central nervous system. Although they were first characterized over 40 years ago, the function(s) played by this unique class of lipids remain largely unknown. Gangliosides have been suggested to play a prominent role in both normal and abnormal developmental processes. In addition, several lines of convergent evidence have indicated that gangliosides exert pronounced trophic effects following damage to peripheral and central nerves. Gangliosides have been shown to (1) enhance cell survival and outgrowth in cultured and developing neurons; (2) promote the regeneration of damaged peripheral and central nerves, and (3) facilitate behavioral recovery by altering the pattern, extent and persistence of the biochemical, morphological and behavioral changes induced by neural trauma. Little is known, however, concerning the neurobiological mechanisms which subserve the. behavioral protection afforded by ganglioside treatment. This review focuses on the evidence suggesting that gangliosides mediate functional recovery by minimizing primary or secondary cell loss or promoting the regeneration or sprouting of damaged central nerves subsequent to injury. An understanding of the mechanisms, by which gangliosides produce their effects may lead to the development of more efficacious and rational primary or adjunct pharmacological treatments for central nervous system disorders.