Glycosphingolipid metabolic reprogramming drives neural differentiation

Domenico Russo, Floriana Della Ragione, Riccardo Rizzo, Eiji Sugiyama, Francesco Scalabrì, Kei Hori, Serena Capasso, Lucia Sticco, Salvatore Fioriniello, Roberto De Gregorio, Ilaria Granata, Mario R. Guarracino, Vittorio Maglione, Ludger Johannes, Gian Carlo Bellenchi, Mikio Hoshino, Mitsutoshi Setou, Maurizio D'Esposito, Alberto Luini, Giovanni D'Angelo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Neural development is accomplished by differentiation events leading to metabolic reprogramming. Glycosphingolipid metabolism is reprogrammed during neural development with a switch from globo- to ganglio-series glycosphingolipid production. Failure to execute this glycosphingolipid switch leads to neurodevelopmental disorders in humans, indicating that glycosphingolipids are key players in this process. Nevertheless, both the molecular mechanisms that control the glycosphingolipid switch and its function in neurodevelopment are poorly understood. Here, we describe a self-contained circuit that controls glycosphingolipid reprogramming and neural differentiation. We find that globo-series glycosphingolipids repress the epigenetic regulator of neuronal gene expression AUTS2. AUTS2 in turn binds and activates the promoter of the first and rate-limiting ganglioside-producing enzyme GM3 synthase, thus fostering the synthesis of gangliosides. By this mechanism, the globo–AUTS2 axis controls glycosphingolipid reprogramming and neural gene expression during neural differentiation, which involves this circuit in neurodevelopment and its defects in neuropathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere97674
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 3 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • AUTS2
  • bistability
  • epigenetics
  • glycosphingolipids
  • neural differentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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