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.
- Programmed cell death promotes homeostatic cell turnover in the epithelium but is dysregulated in cancer. The glycosyltransferase ST6Gal-I is known to block homeostatic apoptosis through α2,6-linked sialylation of the death receptor TNFR1 in many cell types. However, its role has not been investigated in gastric epithelial cells or gastric tumorigenesis. We determined that human gastric antral epithelium rarely expressed ST6Gal-I, but the number of ST6Gal-I–expressing epithelial cells increased significantly with advancing premalignancy leading to cancer.
- 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.
- Activation of the tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNFR1) death receptor by TNF induces either cell survival or cell death. However, the mechanisms mediating these distinct outcomes remain poorly understood. In this study, we report that the ST6Gal-I sialyltransferase, an enzyme up-regulated in numerous cancers, sialylates TNFR1 and thereby protects tumor cells from TNF-induced apoptosis. Using pancreatic and ovarian cancer cells with ST6Gal-I knockdown or overexpression, we determined that α2-6 sialylation of TNFR1 had no effect on early TNF-induced signaling events, including the rapid activation of NF-κB, c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and Akt (occurring within 15 min).
- Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an aggressive malignancy with a poor prognosis. Gemcitabine, as a single agent or in combination therapy, remains the frontline chemotherapy despite its limited efficacy due to de novo or acquired chemoresistance. There is an acute need to decipher mechanisms underlying chemoresistance and identify new targets to improve patient outcomes. Here, we report a novel role for the ST6Gal-I sialyltransferase in gemcitabine resistance. Utilizing MiaPaCa-2 and BxPC-3 PDAC cells, we found that knockdown (KD) of ST6Gal-I expression, as well as removal of surface α2–6 sialic acids by neuraminidase, enhances gemcitabine-mediated cell death assessed via clonogenic assays and cleaved caspase 3 expression.
- 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.