Unusual gangliosidosis in emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

Bettina Freischütz, Akira Tokuda, Toshio Ariga, Alex J. Bermudez, Robert K. Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


A previous study has demonstrated an unusual gangliosidosis in emu that is characterized by the accumulation of gangliosides in the brain tissues with GM3 and GM1 predominating. To provide insight into this unique disorder of emu gangliosidosis, the current study focused on analysis of neutral glycosphingolipids and gangliosides from brain and liver tissues of affected birds and healthy controls. We found not only that the total lipid-bound sialic acid content was increased three- and fourfold in the affected brain and liver, respectively, but also that the ganglioside pattern was rather complex as compared with the control. The absolute ganglioside sialic acid content was significantly increased in the diseased tissues, with the highest elevation levels of GM3 (14-fold) and GM1 (ninefold) in the affected brain. Relative increases in content of these monosialogangliosides were also significant. GM2 was only detected in the affected brain, but not in normal controls. The neutral glycosphingolipid fraction showed accumulation of many oligosylceramides, with six- and 5.5-fold increases in lactosylceramide levels for brain and liver, respectively. The level of myelin-associated galactosylceramide (GalCer) in the brain was decreased to only 41% of that in the healthy control, whereas no difference was found in liver tissues from both groups. Besides GalCer, the brain content of sulfatide (cerebroside- sulfate esters), another myelin-associated glycolipid, decreased to only 16% of the control. The loss of myelin-associated GalCer and sulfatide strongly suggests demyelination in the affected emu brain. Our overall data are consistent with the presence of a unique form of sphingolipidosis in the affected emus, perhaps with secondary demyelination, and suggest a metabolic disorder related to total sphingolipid activator deficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2070-2078
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Emu
  • Gangliosides
  • Gangliosidosis
  • Glycolipids
  • Neutral lipids
  • Sphingolipid activator proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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