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Epigenetics. 2011 Nov;6(11):1362-72. doi: 10.4161/epi.6.11.17977. Epub 2011 Nov 1.

5-AZA-2'-deoxycytidine induced demethylation influences N-glycosylation of secreted glycoproteins in ovarian cancer.

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Dublin-Oxford NIBRT Glycobiology Laboratory, NIBRT, Conway Institute, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland.


Glycosylation is the most common posttranslational modification of proteins and is highly reflective of changes in the environment of a cell. Epigenetic modifications to the genome are stably transmitted to daughter cells without the requirement for genetic sequence alterations. Aberrant regulation of both epigenetic programming and glycosylation patterning are integral aspects of carcinogenesis. The objective of this study was to determine the interplay between these two complex cellular processes. We demonstrate that global DNA methylation changes in ovarian cancer epithelial cells (OVCAR3) resulted in significant alterations in the glycosylation of secreted glycoproteins. These changes included a reduction in core fucosylation, increased branching and increased sialylation. We further show that the change in core fucose levels was mirrored by altered expression of GMDS and FX, key enzymes in fucose biosynthesis. Alterations in the expression of key glycosyltransferase enzymes such as MGAT5 reflect the changes seen in the branching and sialylation of secreted glycans. Overall, our results highlight that modifications to the epigenetic machinery have a profound effect on the glycan structures generated by cells, which may be a key step in understanding metastasis and drug resistance during cancer progression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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