Background: The content of the GM2 ganglioside and the activity of UDP-GalNAc: GM3 beta-1,4N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase (beta-1,4GalNAcT), which synthesizes GM2, increased in gastric cancer tissues and gastric cancer cell lines as compared with that in normal gastric mucosa.
Methods: Expression of beta-1,4GalNAcT mRNA and a concentration of GM2 in the human gastrointestinal tissues were examined. Beta-1,4GalNAcT mRNA in human surgical specimens, which was not detectable with Northern blotting because of the paucity of absolute amounts expressed, was detected with competitive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method using an internal standard cRNA that could be amplified by the same primers as target mRNA in PCR. The quantification of GM2 was examined using immunostaining of thin-layer chromatography.
Results: In 10 of 10 gastric carcinomas and 6 of 13 colonic carcinomas, mRNA expression was more enhanced than that in the normal mucosa of each patient. The alteration of GM2 content in carcinoma from normal tissue generally was correlated to the change in the expression of beta-1,4GalNAcT mRNA with a few exceptions. One gastric cancer sample had a higher level of mRNA with a lower GM2 content than the corresponding normal tissue, and two colonic carcinoma tissue specimens had a lower level of mRNA with a higher GM2 content.
Conclusions: These results suggest that expression of the beta-1,4GalNAcT gene is a key step in the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of cancer-associated GM2 expression in the stomach and the colon.