Glycobiology and Extracellular Matrices
- Heterogeneity within the glycocalyx influences cell adhesion mechanics and signaling. However, the role of specific glycosylation subtypes in influencing cell mechanics via alterations of receptor function remains unexplored. It has been shown that the addition of sialic acid to terminal glycans impacts growth, development, and cancer progression. In addition, the sialyltransferase ST6Gal-I promotes epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activity, and we have shown EGFR is an ‘allosteric mechano-organizer’ of integrin tension.
- ST6Gal-I, an enzyme upregulated in numerous malignancies, adds α2-6-linked sialic acids to select membrane receptors, thereby modulating receptor signaling and cell phenotype. In this study, we investigated ST6Gal-I’s role in epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) using the Suit2 pancreatic cancer cell line, which has low endogenous ST6Gal-I and limited metastatic potential, along with two metastatic Suit2-derived subclones, S2-013 and S2-LM7AA, which have upregulated ST6Gal-I. RNA-Seq results suggested that the metastatic subclones had greater activation of EMT-related gene networks than parental Suit2 cells, and forced overexpression of ST6Gal-I in the Suit2 line was sufficient to activate EMT pathways.
- Aberrant cell surface glycosylation is prevalent in tumor cells, and there is ample evidence that glycans have functional roles in carcinogenesis. Nonetheless, many molecular details remain unclear. Tumor cells frequently exhibit increased α2–6 sialylation on N-glycans, a modification that is added by the ST6Gal-I sialyltransferase, and emerging evidence suggests that ST6Gal-I–mediated sialylation promotes the survival of tumor cells exposed to various cell stressors. Here we report that ST6Gal-I protects cancer cells from hypoxic stress.