Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 27542232
Link to DOI – 10.18632/oncotarget.11257
Oncotarget 2016 Sep; 7(39): 63138-63157
Invasive bladder tumours express the cell-surface Sialyl-Tn (STn) antigen, which stems from a premature stop in protein O-glycosylation. The STn antigen favours invasion, immune escape, and possibly chemotherapy resistance, making it attractive for target therapeutics. However, the events leading to such deregulation in protein glycosylation are mostly unknown. Since hypoxia is a salient feature of advanced stage tumours, we searched into how it influences bladder cancer cells glycophenotype, with emphasis on STn expression. Therefore, three bladder cancer cell lines with distinct genetic and molecular backgrounds (T24, 5637 and HT1376) were submitted to hypoxia. To disclose HIF-1α-mediated events, experiments were also conducted in the presence of Deferoxamine Mesilate (Dfx), an inhibitor of HIF-1α proteasomal degradation. In both conditions all cell lines overexpressed HIF-1α and its transcriptionally-regulated protein CA-IX. This was accompanied by increased lactate biosynthesis, denoting a shift toward anaerobic metabolism. Concomitantly, T24 and 5637 cells acquired a more motile phenotype, consistent with their more mesenchymal characteristics. Moreover, hypoxia promoted STn antigen overexpression in all cell lines and enhanced the migration and invasion of those presenting more mesenchymal characteristics, in an HIF-1α-dependent manner. These effects were reversed by reoxygenation, demonstrating that oxygen affects O-glycan extension. Glycoproteomics studies highlighted that STn was mainly present in integrins and cadherins, suggesting a possible role for this glycan in adhesion, cell motility and invasion. The association between HIF-1α and STn overexpressions and tumour invasion was further confirmed in bladder cancer patient samples. In conclusion, STn overexpression may, in part, result from a HIF-1α mediated cell-survival strategy to adapt to the hypoxic challenge, favouring cell invasion. In addition, targeting STn-expressing glycoproteins may offer potential to treat tumour hypoxic niches harbouring more malignant cells.