ST6Gal-I sialyltransferase promotes tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-mediated cancer cell survival via sialylation of the TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1) death receptor

Academic Article


  • © 2018 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc. 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 2-6 sialylation of TNFR1 had no effect on early TNF-induced signaling events, including the rapid activation of NF-B, c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and Akt (occurring within 15 min). However, upon extended TNF treatment (6 –24 h), cells with high ST6Gal-I levels exhibited resistance to TNF-induced apoptosis, as indicated by morphological evidence of cell death and decreased activation of caspases 8 and 3. Correspondingly, at these later time points, high ST6Gal-I expressers displayed sustained activation of the survival molecules Akt and NF-B. Additionally, extended TNF treatment resulted in the selective enrichment of clonal variants with high ST6Gal-I expression, further substantiating a role for ST6Gal-I in cell survival. Given that TNFR1 internalization is known to be essential for apoptosis induction, whereas survival signaling is initiated by TNFR1 at the plasma membrane, we examined TNFR1 localization. The 2-6 sialylation of TNFR1 was found to inhibit TNF-induced TNFR1 internalization. Thus, by restraining TNFR1 at the cell surface via sialylation, ST6Gal-I acts as a functional switch to divert signaling toward survival. These collective findings point to a novel glycosylation-dependent mechanism that regulates the cellular response to TNF and may promote cancer cell survival within TNF-rich tumor microenvironments.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Holdbrooks AT; Britain CM; Bellis SL
  • Start Page

  • 1610
  • End Page

  • 1622
  • Volume

  • 293
  • Issue

  • 5