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J Biol Chem. 2008 Aug 8;283(32):22177-85. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M8000015200.

Sialylation of beta1 integrins blocks cell adhesion to galectin-3 and protects cells against galectin-3-induced apoptosis.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA.


In previous studies, we determined that beta1 integrins from human colon tumors have elevated levels of alpha2-6 sialylation, a modification added by beta-galactosamide alpha-2,6-sialyltranferase I (ST6Gal-I). Intriguingly, the beta1 integrin is thought to be a ligand for galectin-3 (gal-3), a tumor-associated lectin. The effects of gal-3 are complex; intracellular forms typically protect cells against apoptosis through carbohydrate-independent mechanisms, whereas secreted forms bind to cell surface oligosaccharides and induce apoptosis. In the current study, we tested whether alpha2-6 sialylation of the beta1 integrin modulates binding to extracellular gal-3. Herein we report that SW48 colonocytes lacking alpha2-6 sialylation exhibit beta1 integrin-dependent binding to gal-3-coated tissue culture plates; however, binding is attenuated upon forced expression of ST6Gal-I. Removal of alpha2-6 sialic acids from ST6Gal-I expressors by neuraminidase treatment restores gal-3 binding. Additionally, using a blot overlay approach, we determined that gal-3 binds directly and preferentially to unsialylated, as compared with alpha2-6-sialylated, beta1 integrins. To understand the physiologic consequences of gal-3 binding, cells were treated with gal-3 and monitored for apoptosis. Galectin-3 was found to induce apoptosis in parental SW48 colonocytes (unsialylated), whereas ST6Gal-I expressors were protected. Importantly, gal-3-induced apoptosis was inhibited by function blocking antibodies against the beta1 subunit, suggesting that beta1 integrins are critical transducers of gal-3-mediated effects on cell survival. Collectively, our results suggest that the coordinate up-regulation of gal-3 and ST6Gal-I, a feature that is characteristic of colon carcinoma, may confer tumor cells with a selective advantage by providing a mechanism for blockade of the pro-apoptotic effects of secreted gal-3.

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