We have characterized the major glycolipid constituents of the mouse peritoneal macrophage, and have demonstrated that alterations in the amount and in the accessibility of specific glycolipid species to galactose oxidase/NaB3H4 labeling, an indicator of glycolipid surface exposure, occur in response to inflammation and as a consequence of activation to a tumoricidal state. The key findings are: (a) Asialo GM1, a major neutral glycolipid constituent of all macrophage populations examined, is accessible to galactose oxidase/NaB3H4 labeling on the surface of TG-elicited and BCG-activated macrophages but not on resident macrophages; (b) GM1 is the predominant ganglioside constituent of the mouse macrophage. Resident macrophages contain two distinct GM1 species, as determined by cholera toxin binding, while TG-elicited and BCG-activated macrophages contain an additional GM1 species. Differences in the relative amounts of these GM1 species, as well as in their accessibility to galactose oxidase/NaB3H4 labeling, exist among the macrophage populations. These observations suggest that both a chemical and spatial reorganization of surface glycolipids occurs in response to inflammation and tumoricidal activation.

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