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For cancer patients, sugar-coated cells are deadly

Date:
July 1, 2014
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Every living cell’s surface has a protein-embedded membrane that’s covered in polysaccharide chains – a literal sugar coating. A new study found this coating is especially thick and pronounced on cancer cells – leading to a more lethal cancer. “Changes to the sugar composition on the cell surface could alter physically how receptors are organized,” one researcher said. “That’s really the big thing: coupling the regulation of the sugar coating to these biochemical signaling molecules.”

On a cancer cell, long glycopolymers result in an expanded membrane-extracellular matrix gap, clustering of integrins and membrane bending. These physical effects lead to cell signaling pathways for enhanced cell survival.
Credit: Nature

 Every living cell’s surface has a protein-embedded membrane that’s covered in polysaccharide chains – a literal sugar coating. A new study by a Cornell University researcher found this coating is especially thick and pronounced on cancer cells and is a crucial determinant of the cell’s survival. Consisting of long, sugar-decorated molecules called glycoproteins, the coating causes physical changes in the cell membrane that make the cell better able to thrive ¬– leading to a more lethal cancer.

Matthew Paszek, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Cornell and Valerie Weaver, at the University of California, San Francisco, led the study on glycoprotein-induced cancer cell survival, published online in Nature.

The researchers found that long glycoprotein chains on a cancer cell’s surface cause the cell membrane to push away from its environment and bend inward. This physical change causes adhesion receptors on the cell surface called integrins to clump together. Integrins bind to protein scaffolds in their environment and regulate pretty much everything a cell does – movement, change and growth.

This clustering mechanism causes the integrins to alter the cell’s normal signaling, leading to unchecked growth and survival.

“Changes to the sugar composition on the cell surface could alter physically how receptors are organized,” he said. “That’s really the big thing: coupling the regulation of the sugar coating to these biochemical signaling molecules.”

The paper, “The cancer glycocalyx mechanically primes integrin-mediated growth and survival,” was the subject of a “News and Views” feature in Nature.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Matthew J. Paszek, Christopher C. DuFort, Olivier Rossier, Russell Bainer, Janna K. Mouw, Kamil Godula, Jason E. Hudak, Jonathon N. Lakins, Amanda C. Wijekoon, Luke Cassereau, Matthew G. Rubashkin, Mark J. Magbanua, Kurt S. Thorn, Michael W. Davidson, Hope S. Rugo, John W. Park, Daniel A. Hammer, Grιgory Giannone, Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Valerie M. Weaver. The cancer glycocalyx mechanically primes integrin-mediated growth and survival. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13535

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "For cancer patients, sugar-coated cells are deadly." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701145521.htm>.
Cornell University. (2014, July 1). For cancer patients, sugar-coated cells are deadly. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701145521.htm
Cornell University. "For cancer patients, sugar-coated cells are deadly." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701145521.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

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