In a recent study (Ogushi et al. (2004) J. Biol. Chem. 279,12213-12219) concluded that gangliosides serve as co-receptors for flagellin signaling via toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5). In view of several findings in this study that were inconsistent with a role for gangliosides as co-receptors, we re-examined this important issue. Using TLR5-negative RAW 264.7 cells and a TLR5-enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (TLR5-EYFP) chimera, we established an assay for specific binding of flagellin to cells. Inhibition of clatherin-mediated internalization of flagellin/TLR5-EYFP complexes did not impair flagellin activation of IRAK-1. Thus flagellin signal occurs at the cell surface and not intracellularly. Exogenous addition of mixed gangliosides (GM1, GD1a, and GT1b) as well as GD1a itself inhibited flagellin-induced IRAK-1 activation as well as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) production in HeNC2, THP-1, and RAW 264.7 cells. Gangliosides inhibited flagellin signaling in the absence of an effect on flagellin binding to TLR5. Depletion of gangliosides in RAW 264.7 cells did not alter the concentration-dependence or magnitude of flagellin signaling as measured by IRAK-1 activation or TNF production. Our findings are consistent with the conclusions that gangliosides are not essential co-receptors for flagellin and that the inhibitory effect of gangliosides is mediated by at least one mechanism that is distinct from any effect on the binding of flagellin to TLR5.