Glycosphingolipids (GSLs), composed of a polar saccharide head and a lipophilic ceramide tail, are ubiquitous components of the plasma membrane of eukaryotic cells. They serve in many regulatory capacities and have antigenic properties towards natural killer T (NKT) cells of the innate immune system. Critical to the recognition of glycosylceramides by NKT cells are antigen presenting cells (APC), such as dendritic cells, which are responsible for binding, processing, and delivery of ligands to these lymphocytes. This event is mediated by CD1d, a major histocompatibility complex-like protein expressed on the surface of APCs, which binds GSL antigens by the ceramide moiety and presents the polar group to the T cell receptors of CD1d-restricted cells. The subsequent immune response involves NKT cell proliferation and emission of numerous cytokines, such as interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and interleukin-4 (IL-4), resulting in the stimulation of the innate and adaptive immune systems through maturation of APCs, activation of T cells, and secretion of antibodies by B cells. To understand the structure-activity relationship between GSLs and NKT cell activity and the requirements for intracellular processing of antigens, analogs of the model compound alphaGalCer (KRN-7000) have been synthesized. These include fluorophore-appended 6”-amino-α-galactosylceramides and N-alkenoyl GSLs, such as PBS-57, a potent alphaGalCer surrogate useful in NKT cell stimulation studies. A nonantigenic beta-C-galactosylceramide has also been prepared as an inhibitor of these innate lymphocytes. To probe the potential for using NKT cells to bias the immune system between the proinflammatory TH1 response or the immunomodulatory TH2 mode, versions of alphaGalCer with shortened ceramides have been created. One of these truncated analogs, PBS-25, has successfully been cocrystallized with CD1d and the binary complex structure solved by X-ray crystallography. Synthetic glycosphingolipids derived from Novosphingobium capsulatum and Sphingomonas paucimobilis have also been made. In assays with classical Valpha14i/Valpha24i NKT cell lines, these Gram-negative bacterial antigens were recognized directly and specifically by host immune systems through CD1d-restriction, unlike GSL-deficient microbes (e.g., Salmonella typhimurium). A search for other GSL-bearing alpha-proteobacteria led to the discovery of another natural glycosphingolipid, an N-alkenoylphytosphingoid-alpha-galactoside, isolated from the outer membrane of Ehrlichia muris.



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Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



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glycosphingolipid, GSL, natural killer T cell, NKT cell, alpha-galactosylceramide, ceramide, CD1d, glycolipid, Sphingomonas, Novosphingobium capsulatum, Sphingomonas paucimobilis, Ehrlichia, Ehrlichia muris, PBS-25, PBS-57, dendritic cell, DC, C-glycoside, aGalCer, KRN-7000, TH1, TH2, interferon-gamma, interleukin-4, synthesis, structure-activity relationship