One of the least-investigated areas of brain pathology research is glycosylation, which is a critical regulator of cell surface protein structure and function. β-Galactoside α2,6-sialyltransferase (ST6GAL1) is the primary enzyme that α2,6 sialylates N-glycosylated proteins destined for the plasma membrane or secretion, thereby modulating cell signaling and behavior. We demonstrate a potentially novel, protumorigenic role for α2,6 sialylation and ST6GAL1 in the deadly brain tumor glioblastoma (GBM). GBM cells with high α2,6 sialylation exhibited increased in vitro growth and self-renewal capacity and decreased mouse survival when orthotopically injected. α2,6 Sialylation was regulated by ST6GAL1 in GBM, and ST6GAL1 was elevated in brain tumor-initiating cells (BTICs). Knockdown of ST6GAL1 in BTICs decreased in vitro growth, self-renewal capacity, and tumorigenic potential. ST6GAL1 regulates levels of the known BTIC regulators PDGF Receptor β (PDGFRB), Activated Leukocyte Cell Adhesion Molecule, and Neuropilin, which were confirmed to bind to a lectin-recognizing α2,6 sialic acid. Loss of ST6GAL1 was confirmed to decrease PDGFRB α2,6 sialylation, total protein levels, and the induction of phosphorylation by PDGF-BB. Thus, ST6GAL1-mediated α2,6 sialylation of a select subset of cell surface receptors, including PDGFRB, increases GBM growth.
Sajina GC, Kaysaw Tuy, Lucas Rickenbacker, Robert Jones, Asmi Chakraborty, C. Ryan Miller, Elizabeth A. Beierle, Vidya Sagar Hanumanthu, Anh N. Tran, James A. Mobley, Susan L. Bellis, Anita B. Hjelmeland