The GM gangliosides and cholesterol components of plasma membrane lipid rafts play an important role in the recruitment and signaling of protein receptors in eukaryotic cells. Herein, we have analyzed at the single-cell level the partitioning and intracellular trafficking of GM gangliosides and cholesterol in quiescent (CD4+CD69-) and CD3-activated (CD4+CD69+) thymic and splenic T cells. First, regardless the gender and the quiescent or activated status of T cells, the GM and cholesterol content in cytosol and plasma membrane as well as the expression levels of GM synthase, Sphingomyelin phosphodiestarase 2 and HMG Co-A reductase genes involved in GM and cholesterol synthesis were constantly lower in CD4 thymocytes than in CD4 splenocytes. Second, we detected variations in the balance between GM and cholesterol in plasma membrane depending on aging, and found that deprivation of cellular cholesterol does not necessarily affect the GM content in both quiescent CD4 thymocytes and splenocytes. Third, CD3 stimulation up-regulated the GM and little if any the cholesterol content in both thymic and splenic CD4 T cells, suggesting a cross talk between the CD3 signaling and GM but not cholesterol biosynthesis pathway. Fourth, partitioning and trafficking of GM to the plasma membrane depended on the transport of ceramide precursors from endoplasmic reticulum to Golgi network, as well as on the synthesis, glycosylation and vesicular assembly in trans-Golgi, and less on the cytoskeleton architecture in both quiescent and activated CD4 thymic and splenic T cells. Together, these findings suggest that the differential partitioning and intracellular trafficking of GM and cholesterol in thymic and splenic CD4 T cells may account for the stage of functional maturation.
- CD4 T cells
- Cell partitioning
- GM gangliosides and cholesterol
- Intracellular trafficking
- Lipid rafts