Early Detection Research Network

Novel INTeraction of MUC4 and galectin: potential pathobiological implications for metastasis in lethal pancreatic cancer.

Several studies have reported aberrant expression of MUC4 in pancreatic cancer (PC), which is associated with tumorigenicity and metastasis. Mechanisms through which MUC4 promote metastasis of PC cells to distant organs are poorly defined.

Identification of MUC4-galectin-3 interaction and its effect on the adhesion of cancer cells to endothelial cells were done by immunoprecipitation and cell-cell adhesion assays, respectively. Serum galectin-3 level for normal and PC patients were evaluated through ELISA.

In the present study, we have provided clinical evidence that the level of galectin-3 is significantly elevated in the sera of PC patients with metastatic disease compared with patients without metastasis (P = 0.04) and healthy controls (P = 0.00001). Importantly, for the first time, we demonstrate that MUC4 present on the surface of circulating PC cells plays a significant role in the transient and reversible attachment (docking) of circulating tumor cells to the surface of endothelial cells. Further, exogenous galectin-3 at concentrations similar to that found in the sera of PC patients interacts with MUC4 via surface glycans such as T antigens, which results in the clustering of MUC4 on the cell surface and a stronger attachment (locking) of circulating tumor cells to the endothelium.

Altogether, these findings suggest that PC cell-associated MUC4 helps in the docking of tumor cells on the endothelial surface. During cancer progression, MUC4-galectin-3 interaction-mediated clustering of MUC4 may expose the surface adhesion molecules, which in turn promotes a stronger attachment (locking) of tumor cells to the endothelial surface.

Batra SK, Chakraborty S, Chaney WG, Chaturvedi P, Gnanapragassam VS, Sasson AR, Senapati S

21059814

Clin. Cancer Res., 2011, 17 (2)