The lectin Helix pomatia agglutinin recognizes O-GlcNAc containing glycoproteins in human breast cancer

Glycobiology. 2012 Jun;22(6):839-48. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cws051. Epub 2012 Feb 9.


There has been considerable interest in understanding the epitopes that bind the lectin Helix pomatia agglutinin (HPA) in breast cancer as the lectin has been shown to identify glycosylation changes associated with the development of metastatic disease. HPA has previously been shown to recognize aberrant O-linked α-N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAcα)/mucin glycosylation in cancer, including exposed Tn epitopes. However, recent glycan-array analysis reported that diverse epitopes are also recognized by the lectin, e.g. consortium for functional glycomics (CFG) data: GalNAcα1,3Gal; β-GalNAc; GlcNAcβ1,4Gal. The intriguing observations from the CFG array led to this study, in which HPA-binding epitopes were localized and characterized in an in vitro model of breast cancer metastasis. HMT3522 (benign disease), BT474 (primary cancer) and T47D/MCF7 (metastatic cancer) cells were assessed in confocal microscopy-based co-localization studies and a glycoproteomic analysis based on 2-dimensional electrophoresis (2DE), western blotting and mass spectrometry was adopted. HPA binding correlated with levels of integrin α6, transcription factors heterogeneous nuclear ribonuclear protein (HnRNP) H1, HnRNP D-like, HnRNP A2/B1 as well as heat shock protein 27 (Hsp27), glial fibrillary acidic protein and enolase 1 (ENO1). These glycoproteins were non-detectable in the non-metastatic breast cancer cell lines. The recognition of HnRNPs, Hsp27 and ENO1 by HPA correlated with O-GlcNAcylation of these proteins. Integrin α6 was the most abundant HPA glycoprotein in the breast cancer cells with a metastatic phenotype; this concurred with previous findings in colorectal cancer. This is the first report in which HPA has been shown to bind O-GlcNAcylated transcription factors. This class of proteins represents a new means by which HPA differentiates cancer cells with an aggressive metastatic phenotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / analysis
  • Acetylglucosamine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Glycoproteins / analysis
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lectins / analysis
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Glycoproteins
  • Helix lectin
  • Lectins
  • Acetylglucosamine