Overexpression of sialomucin complex, a rat homologue of MUC4, inhibits tumor killing by lymphokine-activated killer cells

Masanobu Komatsu, Lisa Yee, Kermit L. Carraway

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116 Scopus citations


Sialomucin complex (SMC) is a large heterodimeric glycoprotein complex composed of a mucin subunit ascites sialoglycoprotein-1 and a transmembrane subunit ascites sialoglycoprotein-2. It is a rat homologue of human mucin gene MUC4 and is abundantly expressed on the cell surface of highly metastatic ascites 13762 rat mammary adenocarcinoma cells. Because of their extended and rigid structures, mucin-type glycoproteins are suggested to have suppressing effects on cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. During the metastatic process, these effects presumably cause tumor cell detachment from the primary tumor mass and facilitate escape of the tumor cells from immunosurveillance. Analyses of human breast cancer cells in solid tumors and tumor effusions showed that the more aggressive cells in effusions are stained with polyclonal antibodies against SMC more frequently than cells in solid tumors, suggesting a role for MUC4/SMC in tumor progression and metastasis. Previously, we generated recombinant cDNAs for SMC that vary in the number of mucin repeats to study the putative functions of SMC in tumor metastasis. These cDNAs were transfected into human cancer cell lines and tested for the effect of the expression of this gene. Here, using a tetracycline-responsive inducible expression system, we demonstrate that overexpression of SMC masks the surface antigens on target tumor cells and effectively suppresses tumor cell killing by cytotoxic lymphocytes. This effect results from the ability of SMC to block killer cell binding to the tumor cells and is dependent on both overexpression of the mucin and the number of mucin repeats in the expressed SMC. These results provide an explanation for the proposed role of SMC/MUC4 in tumor progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2229-2236
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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