The integrin mediated interactions between tumour cells and the surrounding extracellular matrix are thought to play crucial parts in the complex process of invasion and metastasis. It has been previously shown that the expression of integrins is differently diminished in a chain-specific manner in human colorectal cancer. To further characterise the integrins still expressed in colorectal carcinomas, immunoblots with monoclonal antibodies against the beta 1 integrin subunit have been performed. In isolated cell membranes of colorectal cancers a second smaller beta 1 chain (105 kD non-reduced) was found as well as the mature beta 1 chain (116 kD non-reduced) present in normal mucosa of the colon. This smaller beta 1 chain comigrates with the diminished glycosylated precursor form of the beta 1 chain. The role of N-glycosylation for the function and expression of integrins in vitro was therefore investigated, with deoxymannojirimycin (DMJ) and deoxynojirimycin (DNJ) as specific inhibitors of N-glycan processing. Pretreatment of human colon adenocarcinoma derived HT-29 cells with DMJ resulted in an expression of the 105 kD beta 1 precursor chain and of smaller forms of the alpha 1, alpha 3, alpha 6, and alpha v integrin subunits in a time and dose dependent manner. HT-29 cells treated with DMJ adhered poorly to laminin (8% of untreated controls), collagen type IV (40%), and fibronectin (35%). Pretreatment of the cells with DNJ did not alter the molecular weight of the integrin chains expressed and reduced HT-29 adhesion to laminin and fibronectin only to 68% and 49% respectively. Adhesion to collagen type IV was increased to 124% by DNJ. These results show that N-glycan processing is essential for the function and expression of integrins in human colorectal cancer cells. An altered glycosylation of these adhesion receptors may contribute to a more invasive or metastatic phenotype in colorectal cancer.
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