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J Cell Biol. 1990 Aug;111(2):773-81.

Tumor cell surface beta 1-4-linked galactose binds to lectin(s) on microvascular endothelial cells and contributes to organ colonization.

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Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario.


Cell surface carbohydrate structures acting as ligands for tissue specific mammalian lectins have been implicated in cell-cell interactions during embryogenesis, lymphocyte homing, and tumor cell metastasis. In this report, we provide evidence that beta 1-4 linked galactose (Gal) residues in N-linked oligosaccharides on the surface of blood born tumor cells serve as a ligand for binding to microvascular endothelial cells. D36W25, a class 1 glycosylation mutant of the MDAY-D2 lymphoreticular tumor cell line, lacks sialic acid and Gal in cellular glycans due to a defect in the Golgi UDP-Gal transporter. Using UDP-Gal and bovine galactosyltransferase in vitro, beta 1-4 Gal was restored to the surface of the cells and 70% of the galactosylated glycans persisted for 8 h in vitro at 37 degrees C. Compared to mock-treated D36W25 cells, galactosylated D36W25 cells showed an 80% increase in binding to microvascular endothelial cell monolayers in vitro. The enhanced binding of galactosylated D36W25 cells to endothelial cell was inhibited by the addition of lactosamine-conjugated albumin to the assay. Consistent with these observations, swainsonine and castinospermine, two inhibitors of N-linked processing that result in loss of lactosamine antennae inhibited the binding of wild-type MDAY-D2 cells to endothelial cells in vitro. Injection of radiolabeled tumor cells into the circulation of syngeneic mice, showed that galactosylation of D36W25 cells resulted in 2-3 more tumor cells retained in the lungs and livers. In addition, galactosylation of D36W25 cells increased by 30-fold the number of visible liver metastases on inspection 4 wk after tumor cell injection. These results suggest that beta 1-4Gal-binding lectins on microvascular endothelial cells can contribute to retention and secondary tumor formation of blood born tumor cells. With the increasing availability of purified glycosyltransferases, reconstruction of a variety of carbohydrate sequences on the surface of class 1 mutants provides a controlled means of studying carbohydrate-lectin interactions on viable cells.

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