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.
- 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.
- A hallmark of cancer cells is the ability to survive and proliferate when challenged with stressors such as growth factor insufficiency. In this study, we report a novel glycosylation-dependent mechanism that protects tumor cells from serum growth factor withdrawal. Our results suggest that the β-galactoside α-2,6-sialyltransferase 1 (ST6Gal-I) sialyltransferase, which is up-regulated in numerous cancers, promotes the survival of serum-starved cells. Using ovarian and pancreatic cancer cell models with ST6Gal-I overexpression or knockdown, we find that serum-starved cells with high ST6Gal-I levels exhibit increased activation of prosurvival signaling molecules, including pAkt, p-p70S6K, and pNFκB.