Ovarian adenocarcinoma is not generally discovered in patients until there has been widespread intraperitoneal dissemination, which is why ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic malignancy. Though incompletely understood, the mechanism of peritoneal metastasis relies on primary tumor cells being able to detach themselves from the tumor, escape normal apoptotic pathways while free floating, and adhere to, and eventually invade through, the peritoneal surface. Our laboratory has previously shown that the Golgi glycosyltransferase, ST6Gal-I, mediates the hypersialylation of β1 integrins in colon adenocarcinoma, which leads to a more metastatic tumor cell phenotype. Interestingly, ST6Gal-I mRNA is known to be upregulated in metastatic ovarian cancer, therefore the goal of the present study was to determine whether ST6Gal-I confers a similarly aggressive phenotype to ovarian tumor cells.
Three ovarian carcinoma cell lines were screened for ST6Gal-I expression, and two of these, PA-1 and SKOV3, were found to produce ST6Gal-I protein. The third cell line, OV4, lacked endogenous ST6Gal-I. In order to understand the effects of ST6Gal-I on cell behavior, OV4 cells were stably-transduced with ST6Gal-I using a lentiviral vector, and integrin-mediated responses were compared in parental and ST6Gal-I-expressing cells.
Forced expression of ST6Gal-I in OV4 cells, resulting in sialylation of β1 integrins, induced greater cell adhesion to, and migration toward, collagen I. Similarly, ST6Gal-I expressing cells were more invasive through Matrigel.
ST6Gal-I mediated sialylation of β1 integrins in ovarian cancer cells may contribute to peritoneal metastasis by altering tumor cell adhesion and migration through extracellular matrix.