Background: The metastasis of cancer cells and leukocyte extravasation into inflamed tissues share common features. Specialized carbohydrates modified with sialyl Lewis x (sLex) antigens on leukocyte membranes are ligands for selectin adhesion molecules on activated vascular endothelial cells at inflammatory sites. The activity of the enzyme core 2 β1,6 N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase (C2GnT1) in leukocytes greatly increases their ability to bind to endothelial selectins. C2GnT1 is essential for the synthesis of core 2-branched O-linked carbohydrates terminated with sLex (C2-O-sLex). Our goal was to determine the expression profiles of C2-O-sLex in the malignant progression and metastasis of colorectal adenocarcinomas. The well characterized CHO-131 monoclonal antibody (mAb) specifically recognizes C2-O-sLex present in human leukocytes and carcinoma cells. Using CHO-131 mAb, we investigated whether C2-O-sLex was present in 113 human primary colorectal adenocarcinomas, 10 colorectal adenomas, 46 metastatic liver tumors, 28 normal colorectal tissues, and 5 normal liver tissues by immunohistochemistry. We also examined mRNA levels of the enzyme core 2 β1,6-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase (C2GnT1) in 20 well, 15 moderately, and 2 poorly differentiated colorectal adenocarcinomas, and in 5 normal colorectal tissues by using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCR). Results: We observed high reactivity with CHO-131 mAb in approximately 70% of colorectal carcinomas and 87% of metastatic liver tumors but a lack of reactivity in colorectal adenomas and normal colonic and liver tissues. Positive reactivity with CHO-131 mAb was very prominent in neoplastic colorectal glands of well to moderately differentiated adenocarcinomas. The most intense staining with CHO-131 mAb was observed at the advancing edge of tumors with the deepest invasive components. Finally, we analyzed C2GnT1 mRNA levels in 37 colorectal adenocarcinomas and 5 normal colorectal tissues by RT-PCR. Significantly, we observed a greater than 15-fold increase in C2GnT1 mRNA levels in colorectal adenocarcinomas compared to normal colorectal tissues. Conclusion: C2-O-sLex, detected by the CHO-131 mAb, is a tumor associated antigen whose expression is highly upregulated in colorectal adenocarcinomas and metastatic liver tumors compared to normal tissues. C2-O-sLex is a potentially useful early predictor of metastasis.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dr. Karin Matchett for review of the manuscript and members of the University of Minnesota's Masonic Cancer Center Comparative Pathology Shared Resource for assistance with the immunohistochemical procedures. This work was supported in part by funds from the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute grant 5KO8CA111829-03.