Interactions of mucins with the Tn or Sialyl Tn cancer antigens including MUC1 are due to GalNAc-GalNAc interactions

Kristin E. Haugstad, Soosan Hadjialirezaei, Bjørn T. Stokke, C. Fred Brewer, Thomas A. Gerken, Joy Burchell, Gianfranco Picco, Marit Sletmoen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The molecular mechanism(s) underlying the enhanced self-interactions of mucins possessing the Tn (GalNAcα1-Ser/Thr) or STn (NeuNAcα2-6GalNAcα1-Ser/Thr) cancer markers were investigated using optical tweezers (OT). The mucins examined included modified porcine submaxillary mucin containing the Tn epitope (Tn-PSM), ovine submaxillary mucin with the STn epitope (STn-OSM), and recombinant MUC1 analogs with either the Tn and STn epitope. OT experiments in which the mucins were immobilized onto polystyrene beads revealed identical self-interaction characteristics for all mucins. Identical binding strength and energy landscape characteristics were also observed for synthetic polymers displaying multiple GalNAc decorations. Polystyrene beads without immobilized mucins showed no self-interactions and also no interactions with mucin-decorated polystyrene beads. Taken together, the experimental data suggest that in these molecules, the GalNAc residue mediates interactions independent of the anchoring polymer backbone. Furthermore, GalNAc-GalNAc interactions appear to be responsible for self-interactions of mucins decorated with the STn epitope. Hence, Tn-MUC1 and STn-MUC1 undergo self-interactions mediated by the GalNAc residue in both epitopes, suggesting a possible molecular role in cancer. MUC1 possessing the T (Galβ1-3GalNAcα1-Ser/Thr) or ST antigen (NeuNAcα2-3Galβ1-3GalNAcα1-Ser/Thr) failed to show self-interactions. However, in the case of ST-MUC1, self-interactions were observed after subsequent treatment with neuraminidase and β-galactosidase. This enzymatic treatment is expected to introduce Tn-epitopes and these observations thus further strengthen the conclusion that the observed interactions are mediated by the GalNAc groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1338-1350
Number of pages13
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016


  • Carbohydrate
  • Dynamic force spectroscopy
  • Glycoprotein
  • Optical tweezers
  • Self-interactions
  • Tn and STn cancer antigens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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