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Glycobiology. 2006 Jul;16(7):594-601. Epub 2006 Mar 29.

Peanut lectin stimulates proliferation of colon cancer cells by interaction with glycosylated CD44v6 isoforms and consequential activation of c-Met and MAPK: functional implications for disease-associated glycosylation changes.

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Division of Gastroenterology, School of Clinical Science, Nuffield Building, Crown Street, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 3BX, UK.


Peanut agglutinin lectin (PNA) binds the Thomsen-Friedenreich (TF) oncofetal carbohydrate antigen (galactose beta1-3N-acetylgalactosamine alpha) that shows increased expression in colon cancer, adenomas, and inflammatory bowel disease. PNA is mitogenic, both in vitro and in vivo, for colon epithelial cells. In these cells, PNA binds predominantly to cell-surface TF antigen expressed by high molecular weight isoforms of the transmembrane glycoprotein CD44 that are generated in inflamed and neoplastic colonic epithelia by altered RNA splicing. Our aim was to identify the signaling mechanism underlying the proliferative response to PNA. This was investigated in HT29, T84, and Caco2 colon cancer cells. Parallel lectin and immunoblotting of PNA affinity-purified HT29 cell membrane extracts showed PNA binding to high molecular weight CD44v6 isoforms. Within 5 min, PNA (25 microg/mL) caused a 6-fold increase in phosphorylation of hepatocyte growth factor receptor c-Met, known to co-associate with CD44v6. This was followed by the downstream activation of p44/p42 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) over 15-20 min. The presence of 100 microg/mL asialofetuin, a TF antigen-expressing glycoprotein, blocked both PNA-induced c-Met and MAPK activation. A similar PNA-induced c-Met and MAPK phosphorylation was also seen in T84 cells that express CD44v6 but not in Caco2 cells that lack CD44v6. PNA-induced cell proliferation was completely blocked by 1 microM PD98059, an inhibitor of MAPK activation (p < 0.0001). The expression of TF antigen by CD44 isoforms in colonic epithelial cells allows lectin-induced mitogenesis that is mediated by phosphorylation of c-Met and MAPK. It provides a mechanism by which dietary, microbial, or endogenous galactose-binding lectins could affect epithelial proliferation in the cancerous and precancerous colon.

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