Glycosphingolipid composition of epithelial cells isolated along the villus axis of small intestine of a single human individual

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A 6-cm fresh proximal ileum surgical specimen from a blood group A(1)Le(a-b+) secretor individual was used for stepwise isolation of epithelial cells from villus tip to crypt bottom by gentle washing with ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid-containing buffer. Acid and non-acid sphingolipids were prepared from the epithelial cell fractions and the non-epithelial intestinal residue. Molecular information on the sphingolipid composition was obtained without further isolation of individual species by applying thin-layer chromatography using chemical and biological (monoclonal antibodies, cholera toxin, Escherichia coli) detection reagents, mass spectrometry and proton NMR spectroscopy of derivatized glycolipids. In this way, the structure of major and minor saccharides, ceramide components and their relative amounts were obtained. Epithelial cells and non-epithelial residue were distinctly different in their sphingolipid composition. Sphingomyelin was the major single component in both compartments. Characteristic for epithelial cells was the dominance of monoglycosylceramides, sulphatides and blood group fucolipids (mainly Le(b) hexaglycosylceramides and ALe(b) heptaglycosylceramides). The non-epithelial residue had about five times less glycolipids mainly mono-, di-, tri- and tetra-glycosylceramides and gangliosides, including the GM1 ganglioside. The ceramides were more hydroxylated (1-2 additional hydroxyls) in epithelial cell glycolipids compared with the non-epithelial residue. Combined with a separate detailed study on the glycoproteins of the same epithelial cell preparation, this human intestinal sample is the only epithelial cell preparation where both protein- and lipid-linked saccharides are characterized in detail.


  • Michael E. Breimer
  • Gunnar C. Hansson
  • Karl-Anders Karlsson
  • Goran Larson
  • Hakon Leffler
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


  • cholera toxin receptor, epithelial cells, glycosphingolipids, human, small intestine, lipid rafts, Norovirus receptor
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1721-1730
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch