Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The role of dietary gangliosides on immunity and the prevention of infection

  • Ricardo Rueda (a1)

Gangliosides are acid glycosphingolipids widely distributed in most vertebrate tissues and fluids. They are present in mammalian milk, where they are almost exclusively associated with the membrane fraction of the fat globule. In human milk, the content and individual distribution of gangliosides changes during lactation, GD3 being the most abundant ganglioside in colostrum, while in mature milk, GM3 is the major individual species. Gangliosides function as “unintended” target receptors for bacterial adhesion in specific tissues. After oral administration, they can be putative decoys that interfere with pathogenic binding in the intestine, this being the main mechanism by which these compounds can prevent infection. Ganglioside-supplemented infant formula has been reported to modify the intestinal ecology of preterm newborns, increasing the Bifidobacteria content and lowering that of Escherichia coli. In addition, the influence of dietary gangliosides on several parameters related to the development of intestinal immune system, such as cytokine and intestinal IgA production, has also been described in animal models. Recently, the influence of GM3 and GD3 on dendritic cell maturation and effector functionalities has also been reported, suggesting a role for these milk gangliosides, especially GD3, in modulating the process of oral tolerance during first stages of life. In summary, dietary gangliosides may have an important role in the modification of intestinal microflora and the promotion of intestinal immunity development in the neonate, and consequently in the prevention of infections during early infancy.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The role of dietary gangliosides on immunity and the prevention of infection
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The role of dietary gangliosides on immunity and the prevention of infection
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The role of dietary gangliosides on immunity and the prevention of infection
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Ricardo Rueda Camino de Purchil, fax 34 958 248660, email
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

2L Svennerholm (1963) Chromatographic separation of human brain gangliosides. J Neurochem 10, 613623.

3TW Keenan (1974) Composition and synthesis of gangliosides in mammary gland and milk of the bovine. Biochim Biophys Acta 337, 255270.

4AA Bushway & TW Keenan (1978) Composition and synthesis of three higher ganglioside analogs in bovine mammary tissue. Lipids 13, 5965.

5R Puente , LA García-Pardo & P Hueso (1992) Gangliosides in bovine milk. Changes in content and distribution of individual ganglioside levels during lactation. Biol Chem Hoppe-Seyler 373, 283288.

6R Puente , LA García-Pardo , R Rueda , A Gil & P Hueso (1994) Changes in ganglioside and sialic acid contents of goat milk during lactation. J Dairy Sci 77, 3944.

8R Puente , LA García-Pardo , R Rueda , A Gil & P Hueso (1996) Seasonal variations in the concentration of gangliosides and sialic acids in milk from different mammalian species. Int Dairy J 6, 315322.

9MJ Martín , S Martín-Sosa & P Hueso (2001) Bovine milk gangliosides: changes in ceramide moiety with stage of lactation. Lipids 36, 291298.

10A Laegreid , ABK Otnaess & J Fuglesang (1986) Human and bovine milk: comparison of ganglioside composition and enterotoxin-inhibitory activity. Pediatr Res 20, 416421.

11A Laegreid & ABK Otnaess (1986) Purification of human milk gangliosides by silica gel chromatography and analysis of trifluoroacetate derivatives by gas chromatography. J Chromatogr 377, 5967.

13R Rueda , R Puente , P Hueso , J Maldonado & A Gil (1995) New data on content and distribution of gangliosides in human milk. Biol Chem Hoppe-Seyler 376, 723727.

14XL Pan & T Izumi (1999) Chronological changes in the ganglioside composition of human milk during lactation. Early Hum Dev 55, 18.

18A Sánchez-Díaz , MJ Ruano , F Lorente & P Hueso (1997) A critical análisis of total sialic acid and sialoglycoconjugate contents of bovine milk-based infant formulas. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 24, 405410.

19XL Pan & T Izumi (2000) Variation of the ganglioside compositions of human milk, cow's milk and infant formulas. Early Hum Dev 57, 2531.

21R Rueda , J Maldonado , E Narbona & A Gil (1998) Neonatal dietary gangliosides. Early Hum Dev 53, S135S147.

23A Laegreid & ABK Otnaess (1987) Trace amounts of ganglioside GM1 in human milk inhibits enterotoxin from Vibrio cholerae and Escherichia coli. Life Sci 40, 5562.

24T Idota , H Kawakami , Y Murakami & M Sugawara (1995) Inhibition of cholera toxin by human milk fractions and sialyllactose. Biosci Biotech Biochem 59, 417419.

25S Teneberg , P Willemsen , FK de Graaf & KA Karlsson (1993) Calf small intestine receptors for K99 fimbriated enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli. FEMS Microbiol Lett 109, 107112.

27T Idota & H Kawakami (1995) Inhibitory effects of milk gangliosides on the adhesion of Escherichia coli to human intestinal carcinoma cells. Biosci Biotech Biochem 59, 6972.

28T Idota , H Kawakami & I Nakajima (1994) Growth-promoting effects of N-Acetylneuraminic acid-containing substances on bifidobacteria. Biosci Biotech Biochem 58, 17201722.

30R Rueda , JL Sabatel , J Maldonado , JA Molina & A Gil (1998b) Addition of gangliosides to an adapted milk formula modifies the levels of fecal Escherichia coli in preterm newborn infants. J Pediatr 133, 9094.

31H Yuasa , DA Scheinberg & AN Houghton (1990) Gangliosides of T Lymphocytes: evidence for a role in T-Cell activation. Tissue Antigens 36, 4756.

32F Ebel , E Scmitt , J Peter-Katalinic , B Kniep & PF Mühlradt (1992) Gangliosides: differentiation markers for murine T helper lymphocyte subpopulations TH1 and TH2. Biochemistry 31, 1219012197.

33S Taga , C Tetaud , M Mangeney , T Tursz & J Wiels (1995) Sequential changes in glycolipid expression during human B cell differentiation: enzymatic basis. Biochim Biophys Acta 1254, 5665.

34E Vázquez , A Gil & R Rueda (2001) Dietary gangliosides positively modulate the percentages of Th1 and Th2 lymphocyte subsets in small intestine of mice at weaning. BioFactors 15, 19.

38H Bronnum , T Seested , LI Hellgren , S Brix & H Frokiaer (2005) Milk-derived GM3 and GD3 differentially inhibit dendritic cell maturation and effector functionalities. Scand J Immunol 61, 551557.

40EJ Park , M Suh , K Ramanujam , K Steiner , D Begg & MT Clandinin (2005) Diet-induced changes in membrane gangliosides in rat intestinal mucosa, plasma and brain. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 40, 487–495.

41CJ Birecki , LA Drozdowski , M Suh , EJ Park , MT Clandinin & AB Thomson (2006) Dietary gangliosides enhance in vitro lipid uptake in weanling rats. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 42, 59–65.

42EJ Park , M Suh , AB Thomson , KS Ramanujam & MT Clandinin (2006) Dietary gangliosides increase the content and percentage of ether phospholipids containing 20:4n-6 and 22:6n-3 in weanling rat intestine. J Nutr Biochem 17, 337–344.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *