Integrated Systems Analysis of the Murine and Human Pancreatic Cancer Glycomes Reveals a Tumor-Promoting Role for ST6GAL1

Emma Kurz, Shuhui Chen, Emily Vucic, Gillian Baptiste, Cynthia Loomis, Praveen Agrawal, Cristina Hajdu, Dafna Bar-Sagi, Lara K. Mahal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Glycans, such as carbohydrate antigen 19-9, are biomarkers of PDAC and are emerging as important modulators of cancer phenotypes. Herein, we used a systems-based approach integrating glycomic analysis of the well-established KC mouse, which models early events in transformation, and analysis of samples from human pancreatic cancer patients to identify glycans with potential roles in cancer formation. We observed both common and distinct patterns of glycosylation in pancreatic cancer across species. Common alterations included increased levels of α-2,3-sialic acid and α-2,6-sialic acid, bisecting GlcNAc and poly-N-acetyllactosamine. However, core fucose, which was increased in human PDAC, was not seen in the mouse, indicating that not all human glycomic changes are observed in the KC mouse model. In silico analysis of bulk and single-cell sequencing data identified ST6 beta-galactoside alpha-2,6-sialyltransferase 1, which underlies α-2,6-sialic acid, as overexpressed in human PDAC, concordant with histological data showing higher levels of this enzyme at the earliest stages. To test whether ST6 beta-galactoside alpha-2,6-sialyltransferase 1 promotes pancreatic cancer, we created a novel mouse in which a pancreas-specific genetic deletion of this enzyme overlays the KC mouse model. The analysis of our new model showed delayed cancer formation and a significant reduction in fibrosis. Our results highlight the importance of a strategic systems approach to identifying glycans whose functions can be modeled in mouse, a crucial step in the development of therapeutics targeting glycosylation in pancreatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100160
JournalMolecular and Cellular Proteomics
StatePublished - Oct 8 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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