Internalization and sorting of plasma membrane sphingolipid analogues in differentiating oligodendrocytes

Rikio Watanabe, Kunihiko Asakura, Moses Rodriguez, Richard E. Pagano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


We studied the formation of early endosomes in differentiating oligodendrocytes and type-2 astrocytes, which are derived from common precursor cells in rat neonates, using fluorescent analogues of lactosylceramide (LacCer) and sulfatide labeled with 4,4-difluoro-5,7- dimethyl-4-bora-3a, 4a-diaza-s-indacene-3-pentanoic acid (BODIPY FL C5). These sphingolipid analogues exhibit a concentration-dependent shift in their fluorescence emission maximum from green to red wavelengths that can be used to estimate the relative concentration of an analogue in the intracellular membranes of living cells by quantitative fluorescence microscopy. When oligodendrocytes at various stages of differentiation were incubated with 1 μM BODIPY-sphingolipid at 10°C and washed, yellow/green plasma membrane fluorescence was observed. Quantitative studies confirmed that the amount of BODIPY-LacCer or -sulfatide incorporated into the plasma membrane of a given cell type was identical. When these cells were subsequently warmed to 37°C for 2-10 min to allow internalization to occur, the BODIPY-sphingolipid analogues were distributed in a punctate pattern throughout the cytoplasm. Within individual cells labeled with BODIPY-sulfatide, some endosomes exhibited green fluorescence, whereas others emitted red/orange fluorescence. In contrast, when BODIPY-LacCer was used, only green endosomes were observed. Although this phenomenon could be observed at earlier stages of differentiation, it was most obvious in mature oligodendrocytes, where quantitative measurements of the red/green ratio of individual endosomes suggested about a threefold difference between the concentration of the LacCer and sulfatide analogues in endosomes. These results suggest that 'lipid sorting' takes place during endocytosis in mature oligodendrocytes, resulting in selective exclusion of certain lipid species during the internalization process. This sorting event may result in the net addition of lipids to the differentiated oligodendrocyte plasma membrane.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1375-1383
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


  • Endocytosis
  • Fluorescent lipids
  • Lactosylceramide
  • Sulfatide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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