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Cancer Res. 2001 May 15;61(10):4244-52.

Ganglioside G(D2) in small cell lung cancer cell lines: enhancement of cell proliferation and mediation of apoptosis.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry II, Nagoya University School of Medicine, 65 Tsurumai, Showa-ku, Nagoya 466-0065, Japan.


Expression levels of gangliosides and glycosyltransferase genes responsible for their syntheses in human lung cancer cell lines and a normal bronchial epithelial cell line were analyzed. Both non-small cell lung cancers and small cell lung cancers (SCLCs) mainly expressed G(M2) and G(M1), whereas only SCLCs expressed b-series gangliosides, such as G(D2), G(D1b), and G(T1b). Accordingly, many SCLC cell lines showed up-regulation of the G(D3) synthase gene. Consequently, we introduced G(D3) synthase cDNA into a SCLC line with low expression of b-series gangliosides and analyzed the effects of newly expressed gangliosides on tumor phenotypes. The transfectant cells expressing high levels of G(D2) and G(D3) exhibited markedly increased growth rates and strongly enhanced invasion activities. Addition of anti-G(D2) monoclonal antibodies into the culture medium of these cells resulted in the marked growth suppression of G(D2)-expressing cell lines with reduced activation levels of mitogen-activated protein kinases but not of nonexpressants, suggesting that G(D2) plays important roles in cell proliferation. Moreover, G(D2)-expressing cells treated with anti-G(D2) antibodies showed features of apoptotic cell death at 30 min after addition of antibodies, i.e., shrinkage of cytoplasm, binding of Annexin V, and staining with propidium iodide, followed by DNA fragmentation. This G(D2)-mediated apoptosis was associated with caspase-3 activation and partly inhibited by a caspase inhibitor, z-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethyl ketone. The finding that anti-G(D2) antibodies suppressed the cell growth and induced apoptosis of SCLC cells strongly suggested the usefulness of G(D2) as a target for the therapy of disastrous cancer, although the precise mechanisms for apoptosis remain to be clarified.

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