It is hoped that the gangliosides contained in neuroblastomas (NBs) can be used as outcome predictors. We used liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to analyze the gangliosides expressed in 11 NB cell lines. LC-MS analysis detected a number of gangliosides, including acetylated forms, with significantly higher sensitivity than conventional high-performance thin-layer chromatography analysis, and the results revealed that the expression profiles of the gangliosides GD1a, GD2, and acetylated GD2 differed according to the NB cell line. Hierarchical clustering based on the ganglioside expression profiles obtained by LC-MS analysis revealed that the NB cell lines could be classified into three types according to their expression of these three gangliosides: A-type characterized by high expression of GD1a and low or no expression of GD2/acetylated GD2, B-type characterized by low or no expression of GD1a and high expression of GD2/acetylated GD2, and AB-type characterized by expression of both GD1a and GD2/acetylated GD2. Interestingly, all three MYCN non-amplified cell lines were classified into the A-type. The classification was found to be correlated with mRNA expression of ganglioside synthase and neural-differentiation-related genes. The results of this study indicate that LC-MS analysis is useful as a tool for glycosphingolipid research on malignancies.
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