Aberrant sialylation is frequently found in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). α2,3-Sialyltransferases (α2,3-STs) ST3GAL3 and ST3GAL4 are overexpressed in PDA tissues and are responsible for increased biosynthesis of sialyl-Lewis (sLe) antigens, which play an important role in metastasis. This study addresses the effect of α2,3-STs knockdown on the migratory and invasive phenotype of PDA cells, and on E-selectin-dependent adhesion. Characterization of the cell sialome, the α2,3-STs and fucosyltransferases involved in the biosynthesis of sLe antigens, using a panel of human PDA cells showed differences in the levels of sialylated determinants and α2,3-STs expression, reflecting their phenotypic heterogeneity. Knockdown of ST3GAL3 and ST3GAL4 in BxPC-3 and Capan-1 cells, which expressed moderate to high levels of sLe antigens and α2,3-STs, led to a significant reduction in sLex and in most cases in sLea, with slight increases in the α2,6-sialic acid content. Moreover, ST3GAL3 and ST3GAL4 downregulation resulted in a significant decrease in cell migration and invasion. Binding and rolling to E-selectin, which represent key steps in metastasis, were also markedly impaired in the α2,3-STs knockdown cells. Our results indicate that inhibition of ST3GAL3 and ST3GAL4 may be a novel strategy to block PDA metastasis, which is one of the reasons for its dismal prognosis.
Keywords: E-selectin; cell migration; pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; sialyl-Lewis antigens; α2,3-sialyltransferases.