Sialic acid concentration of brain gangliosides: variation among eight mammalian species.
Sialic acid is a vital component of brain gangliosides which play an essential role in the transmission and storage of information in the brain. The concentration of bound sialic acid in gangliosides and free sialic acid in the brain cortex of eight different mammals [human, chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), rat (Rattus norvegicus), mouse (Mus musculus), rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), sheep (Ovis aries), cow (Bos indicus) and pig (Sus scrofa)] were compared. Total sialic acid concentration (890+/-103 microg/g wet weight tissue, mean+/-SE, n = 6) was 2-4 times higher in the human brain compared with the other species studied (0.001 < p < 0.05). There was no significant difference between human males and females. The rank order of adult brain sialic acid after humans (in microg/g) was rat (493+/-23, n = 12), mouse (445+/-29, n = 16), rabbit (380+/-18, n = 6), sheep (323+/-43, n = 6), cow (304+/-14, n = 6) and pig (252+/-14, n = 6). Apart from the cow vs the sheep, the differences between species were statistically significant (p < 0.05). In the mouse, cow and sheep, total sialic acid concentration increased during maturation by 18-32% (p < 0.05). In a 2-year-old chimpanzee, the sialic acid concentration in the left lobe of the brain cortex was 25% higher than that of right lobe at 6 weeks of age (p < 0.05). Free sialic acid was higher in the human brain cortex (41+/-3 microg/g) than that of the rat and mouse (32+/-3 and 25+/-5 microg/g respectively) and absent from other species. Variation in brain sialic acid concentration among different animals has implications for the evolution of the brain and may affect learning ability in animals.