Mucin oligosaccharide biosynthesis in human colonic cancerous tissues and cell lines

Rajvir Dahiya, Steven H. Itzkowitz, James C. Byrd, Young S. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background. The Tn, sialosyl‐Tn, and T antigens are carbohydrate‐associated antigens that represent initial steps in mucin O‐linked glycosylation. Previous immunohistochemical studies have shown that these three antigens are rarely, if ever, expressed in normal colonic mucosa; however, most colonic cancerous tissues express these structures. Little is known about the factors that control the expression of these antigens in colonic tissues or cell lines. One hypothesis is that cancers have increased levels of the glycosyltransferase activities responsible for synthesizing these antigens. Methods. The current study analyzed antigen expression by immunohistochemistry and glycosyltransferase enzyme activities for Tn, sialosyl‐Tn, and T antigens in colonic tissues and cell lines to (1) compare values between normal and cancerous tissues and (2) correlate these results with tumor stage, histologic findings, and location. Results. All nine colonic cancer cell lines expressed Tn antigen; sialosyl‐Tn and T antigens were expressed by the more mucin‐producing cell lines. Sialosyl‐Tn trans‐ferase activity was higher in the more mucinous cell lines; T transferase activity was higher in those with less mucin. In paired specimens of normal and cancerous tissues, levels of each of the three glycosyltransferases were similar. In cancerous tissues, enzyme activity did not correlate with tumor location, stage, or histologic type. There also was no correlation between glycosyltransferase activity and expression of the relevant antigen. Conclusions. Thus, because normal and malignant colonic tissues have comparable levels of Tn, sialosyl‐Tn, and T glycosyltransferases, the absence of these antigens in normal mucosa apparently is related to other factors such as antigen masking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1467-1476
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Sep 1992


  • carbohydrate antigens
  • colon
  • colon cancer
  • glycosylation
  • glycosyltransferase
  • mucin
  • oligosaccharide


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