The glycosyltransferase ST6Gal-I protects tumor cells against serum growth factor withdrawal by enhancing survival signaling and proliferative potential

Academic Article


  • © 2017 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc. 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. Correspondingly, ST6Gal-I activity augments the expression of tumor-promoting pNFκB transcriptional targets such as IL-6, IL-8, and the apoptosis inhibitor cIAP2. ST6Gal-I also potentiates expression of the cell cycle regulator cyclin D2, leading to increased phosphorylation and inactivation of the cell cycle inhibitor pRb. Consistent with these results, serum-starved cells with high ST6Gal-I expression maintain a greater number of S phase cells compared with low ST6Gal-I expressors, reflecting enhanced proliferation. Finally, selective enrichment in clonal variants with high ST6Gal-I expression is observed upon prolonged serum deprivation, supporting the concept that ST6Gal-I confers a survival advantage. Collectively, these results implicate a functional role for ST6Gal-I in fostering tumor cell survival within the serum-depleted tumor microenvironment.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Britain CM; Dorsett KA; Bellis SL
  • Start Page

  • 4663
  • End Page

  • 4673
  • Volume

  • 292
  • Issue

  • 11