The specific features of the lateral distribution of gangliosides play key roles in cell-cell communications and the onset of various diseases related to the plasma membrane. We herein demonstrated that an artificial peptide identified from a phage-displayed library is available as a molecular probe for specific ganglioside nanoclustering sites in caveolae/membrane rafts on the cell surface. Atomic force microscopy studies indicated that the peptide specifically binds to the highly enriched monosialoganglioside GM1 nanodomains of reconstituted lipid bilayers composed of GM1, sphingomyelin, cholesterol, and unsaturated phospholipids. The ganglioside-containing area recognized by the peptide on the surface of PC12 cells was part of the area recognized by the cholera toxin B subunit, which has high affinity for GM1. Furthermore, the peptide bound to the cell surface after a treatment with methyl-β-cyclodextrin (MβCD), which disrupts membrane rafts by removing cholesterol. The present results indicate that there are heterogeneous ganglioside clusters with different ganglioside densities in caveolae/membrane rafts, and the peptidyl probe selectively recognizes the high-density ganglioside nanodomain that resists the MβCD treatment. This peptidyl probe will be useful for obtaining information on the lipid organization of the cell membrane and will help clarify the mechanisms by which the lateral distribution of gangliosides affects biological functions and the onset of diseases.
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