O-GlcNAcylation affects β-catenin and E-cadherin expression, cell motility and tumorigenicity of colorectal cancer

Shani Ben Harosh-Davidovich, Isam Khalaila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


O-GlcNAcylation, the addition of β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) moiety to Ser/Thr residues, is a sensor of the cell metabolic state. Cancer diseases such as colon, lung and breast cancer, possess deregulated O-GlcNAcylation. Studies during the last decade revealed that O-GlcNAcylation is implicated in cancer tumorigenesis and proliferation. The Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway and cadherin-mediated adhesion are also implicated in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a key cellular process in invasion and cancer metastasis. Often, deregulation of the Wnt pathway is caused by altered phosphorylation of its components. Specifically, phosphorylation of Ser or Thr residues of β-catenin affects its location and interaction with E-cadherin, thus facilitating cell-cell adhesion. Consistent with previous studies, the current study indicates that β-catenin is O-GlcNAcylated. To test the effect of O-GlcNAcylation on cell motility and how O-GlcNAcylation might affect β-catenin and E-cadherin functions, the enzyme machinery of O-GlcNAcylation was modulated either with chemical inhibitors or by gene silencing. When O-GlcNAcase (OGA) was inhibited, a global elevation of protein O-GlcNAcylation and increase in the expression of E-cadherin and β-catenin were noted. Concomitantly with enhanced O-GlcNAcylation, β-catenin transcriptional activity were elevated. Additionally, fibroblast cell motility was enhanced. Stable silenced cell lines with adenoviral OGA or adenoviral O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) were established. Consistent with the results obtained by OGA chemical inhibition by TMG, OGT-silencing led to a significant reduction in β-catenin level. In vivo, murine orthotropic colorectal cancer model indicates that elevated O-GlcNAcylation leads to increased mortality rate, tumor and metastasis development. However, reduction in O-GlcNAcylation promoted survival that could be attributed to attenuated tumor and metastasis development. The results described herein provide circumstantial clues that O-GlcNAcylation deregulates β-catenin and E-cadherin expression and activity in fibroblast cell lines and this might influence EMT and cell motility, which may further influence tumor development and metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-49
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Cancer metastasis
  • Cell-motility
  • E-cadherin
  • EMT
  • O-GlcNAcylation
  • β-catenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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