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Biomed Res Int. 2018 Jun 21;2018:9532389. doi: 10.1155/2018/9532389. eCollection 2018.

T-Synthase Deficiency Enhances Oncogenic Features in Human Colorectal Cancer Cells via Activation of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition.

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Medical Research Center, Beijing Chao-Yang Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing 100020, China.
Department of Oncology, Beijing Chao-Yang Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing 100020, China.



Immature truncated O-glycans such as Tn antigen are frequently detected in human colorectal cancer (CRC); however, the precise pathological consequences of Tn antigen expression on CRC are unknown. T-synthase is the key enzyme required for biosynthesis of mature O-glycans. Here we investigated the functional roles of Tn antigen expression mediated by T-synthase deficiency in CRC cells.


To knock out T-synthase, we used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to target C1GALT1, the gene encoding T-synthase, in a CRC cell line (HCT116). Deletion of T-synthase was confirmed by western blotting, and expression of Tn antigen was determined by flow cytometry in HCT116 cells. We then assessed the biological effects of T-synthase deficiency on oncogenic behaviors in HCT116 cells. Furthermore, we analyzed the mechanistic role of T-synthase deficiency in cancer cells by determining the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) pathway.


We showed that forced knockout of T-synthase in HCT116 cells significantly induced Tn antigen expression, which represented the occurrence of aberrant O-glycosylation. Loss of T-synthase significantly enhanced cell proliferation and adhesion, as well as migration and invasiveness in culture. More importantly, we demonstrated that T-synthase deficiency directly induced classical EMT characteristics in cancer cells. E-cadherin, a typical epithelial cell marker, was markedly decreased in T-synthase knockout HCT 116 cells, accompanied by an enhanced expression of mesenchymal markers including snail and fibronectin (FN).


These findings indicate that T-synthase deficiency in CRC cells not only is responsible for aberrant O-glycosylation, but also triggers the molecular process of EMT pathway, which may translate to increased invasiveness and metastasis in cancers.

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