ST3GAL1-Associated Transcriptomic Program in Glioblastoma Tumor Growth, Invasion, and Prognosis

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2015 Nov 7;108(2):djv326. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djv326. Print 2016 Feb.


Background: Cell surface sialylation is associated with tumor cell invasiveness in many cancers. Glioblastoma is the most malignant primary brain tumor and is highly infiltrative. ST3GAL1 sialyltransferase gene is amplified in a subclass of glioblastomas, and its role in tumor cell self-renewal remains unexplored.

Methods: Self-renewal of patient glioma cells was evaluated using clonogenic, viability, and invasiveness assays. ST3GAL1 was identified from differentially expressed genes in Peanut Agglutinin-stained cells and validated in REMBRANDT (n = 390) and Gravendeel (n = 276) clinical databases. Gene set enrichment analysis revealed upstream processes. TGFβ signaling on ST3GAL1 transcription was assessed using chromatin immunoprecipitation. Transcriptome analysis of ST3GAL1 knockdown cells was done to identify downstream pathways. A constitutively active FoxM1 mutant lacking critical anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome ([APC/C]-Cdh1) binding sites was used to evaluate ST3Gal1-mediated regulation of FoxM1 protein. Finally, the prognostic role of ST3Gal1 was determined using an orthotopic xenograft model (3 mice groups comprising nontargeting and 2 clones of ST3GAL1 knockdown in NNI-11 [8 per group] and NNI-21 [6 per group]), and the correlation with patient clinical information. All statistical tests on patients' data were two-sided; other P values below are one-sided.

Results: High ST3GAL1 expression defines an invasive subfraction with self-renewal capacity; its loss of function prolongs survival in a mouse model established from mesenchymal NNI-11 (P < .001; groups of 8 in 3 arms: nontargeting, C1, and C2 clones of ST3GAL1 knockdown). ST3GAL1 transcriptomic program stratifies patient survival (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.47, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.72 to 3.55, REMBRANDT P = 1.92 x 10⁻⁸; HR = 2.89, 95% CI = 1.94 to 4.30, Gravendeel P = 1.05 x 10⁻¹¹), independent of age and histology, and associates with higher tumor grade and T2 volume (P = 1.46 x 10⁻⁴). TGFβ signaling, elevated in mesenchymal patients, correlates with high ST3GAL1 (REMBRANDT gliomacor = 0.31, P = 2.29 x 10⁻¹⁰; Gravendeel gliomacor = 0.50, P = 3.63 x 10⁻²⁰). The transcriptomic program upon ST3GAL1 knockdown enriches for mitotic cell cycle processes. FoxM1 was identified as a statistically significantly modulated gene (P = 2.25 x 10⁻⁵) and mediates ST3Gal1 signaling via the (APC/C)-Cdh1 complex.

Conclusions: The ST3GAL1-associated transcriptomic program portends poor prognosis in glioma patients and enriches for higher tumor grades of the mesenchymal molecular classification. We show that ST3Gal1-regulated self-renewal traits are crucial to the sustenance of glioblastoma multiforme growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Forkhead Box Protein M1
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism*
  • Glioblastoma / pathology*
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Prognosis
  • Sialyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcriptome*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*
  • Tumor Stem Cell Assay
  • Up-Regulation
  • beta-Galactoside alpha-2,3-Sialyltransferase


  • FOXM1 protein, human
  • Forkhead Box Protein M1
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxm1 protein, mouse
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Sialyltransferases
  • beta-Galactoside alpha-2,3-Sialyltransferase