Essential role of gastric gland mucin in preventing gastric cancer in mice

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Gastric gland mucin secreted from the lower portion of the gastric mucosa contains unique O-linked oligosaccharides (O-glycans) having terminal α1,4-linked N-acetylglucosamine residues (αGlcNAc). Previously, we identified human α1,4-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase (α4GnT), which is responsible for the O-glycan biosynthesis and characterized αGlcNAc function in suppressing Helicobacter pylori in vitro. In the present study, we engineered A4gnt–/– mice to better understand its role in vivo. A4gnt–/– mice showed complete lack of αGlcNAc expression in gastric gland mucin. Surprisingly, all the mutant mice developed gastric adenocarcinoma through a hyperplasia-dysplasia-carcinoma sequence in the absence of H. pylori infection. Microarray and quantitative RT-PCR analysis revealed upregulation of genes encoding inflammatory chemokine ligands, proinflammatory cytokines, and growth factors, such as Ccl2, Il-11, and Hgf in the gastric mucosa of A4gnt–/– mice. Further supporting an important role for this O-glycan in cancer progression, we also observed significantly reduced αGlcNAc in human gastric adenocarcinoma and adenoma. Our results demonstrate that the absence of αGlcNAc triggers gastric tumorigenesis through inflammation-associated pathways in vivo. Thus, αGlcNAc-terminated gastric mucin plays dual roles in preventing gastric cancer by inhibiting H. pylori infection and also suppressing tumor-promoting inflammation.

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