GD3 recruits reactive oxygen species to induce cell proliferation and apoptosis in human aortic smooth muscle cells

Anil Kumar Bhunia, Gü Nter Schwarzmann, Subroto Chatterjee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Sialic acid containing glycosphingolipids (gangliosides) are expressed on the surface of all mammalian cells and have been implicated in regulating various biological phenomena; however, the detailed signaling mechanisms involved in this process are not known. We report here a novel aspect of disialoganglioside, GD3-mediated regulation of cell proliferation and cell death via the recruitment of reactive oxygen species (ROS). A low concentration (2.5-10 μM) of GD3, incubated with human aortic smooth muscle cells for a short period of time (10-30 min), stimulates superoxide generation via the activation of both NADPH oxidase and NADH oxidase activity. This leads to downstream signaling leading to cell poliferation and apoptosis. However, [3H]GD3 incubated with the cells under such conditions was found in a trypsin-sensitive fraction that was separable from endogenous GD3. The exact mechanism causing ROS generation and downstream signaling remains to be elucidated. The uptake of GD3 was accompanied by a 2.5-fold stimulation in the activity of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase and 5-fold stimulation in cell proliferation. Preincubation of cells with membrane-permeable antioxidants, pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate, and N-acetylcysteine abrogated the superoxide generation and cell proliferation. In contrast, at higher concentrations (50-200 μM) GD3 inhibited the generation of superoxides but markedly stimulated the generation of nitric oxide (NO) (10-fold compared with control). This in turn stimulated mitochondrial cytochrome c release and intrachromosomal DNA fragmentation, which lead to apoptosis. In sum, at a low concentration, GD3 recruits superoxides to activate p44 MAPK and stimulates cell proliferation. In contrast, at high concentrations GD3 recruits nitric oxide to scavenge superoxide radicals that triggered signaling events that led to apoptosis. These observations might have relevance in regard to the potential role of GD3 in aortic smooth muscle cell proliferation and apoptosis that may contribute to plaque rupture in atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16396-16402
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 10 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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