Biosynthesis of glycosphingolipids is reduced in the absence of a vimentin intermediate filament network
Our previous observations on the immunocytochemical colocalization of intermediate filaments and glycosphingolipids led us to analyze the role of filaments in the biosynthesis and intracellular transport of glycosphingolipids. Cells with (vim+) and without (vim-) vimentin intermediate filaments were cloned from the adrenal carcinoma cell line SW13. There was no difference between vim+ and vim- cells in the proportion of newly synthesized C6-NBD-glucosylceramide transported to the plasma membrane. The vim+ cells synthesized glycosphingolipids, especially lactosylceramide and globotriosylceramide, and to a lesser extent GM3 ganglioside, more rapidly than vim- cells. The altered rate of biosynthesis did not result from differences in the levels of the glycosyltransferases that synthesize those compounds. To determine whether the presence of a vimentin network was responsible for the differences in biosynthesis, mouse vimentin cDNA was transfected into vim- cells. Transfected cells that expressed a mouse vimentin network demonstrated a twofold or greater increase in the rate of biosynthesis of neutral glycosphingolipids and gangliosides. There was no difference between vim+ and vim- cells in the synthesis of ceramide or sphingomyelin, or in their content of phospholipids or cholesterol. The nature of the biochemical defect(s) underlying the diminished incorporation of radiolabeled sugars into glycosphingolipids is unclear. Possibilities include alterations in the ultrastructure of the Golgi and/or abnormalities in a portion of the endocytic pathway.