A defining feature of the vertebrate nervous system is the ensheathment of axons by myelin, a multilamellar membrane containing a small group of proteins and an abundance of the galactolipid galactocerebroside (GalC) and its sulfated derivative sulfatide. Several in vitro studies have suggested that these galactolipids transduce developmental signals, facilitate protein trafficking and stabilize membranes. In addition, mice lacking the ability to synthesize GalC or sulfatide form dysfunctional and unstable myelin. These findings suggest that the galactolipids are essential components of myelin, and that functional and structural properties of myelin result from the combined contributions of galactolipids and proteins.
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