Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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Hypoxia alters epigenetic and N-glycosylation profiles of ovarian and breast cancer cell lines in-vitro

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posted on 2023-01-09, 12:14 authored by Gordon Greville, Esther Llop, Chengnan Huang, Jack Creagh-Flynn, Stephanie Pfister, Roisin O'Flaherty, Stephen MaddenStephen Madden, Rosa Peracaula, Pauline M Rudd, Amanda McCann, Radka Saldova

Background: Glycosylation is one of the most fundamental post-translational modifications. Importantly, glycosylation is altered in many cancers. These alterations have been proven to impact on tumor progression and to promote tumor cell survival. From the literature, it is known that there is a clear link between chemoresistance and hypoxia, hypoxia and epigenetics and more recently glycosylation and epigenetics. 

Methods and Results: Our objective was to investigate these differential parameters, in an in vitro model of ovarian and breast cancer. Ovarian (A2780, A2780cis, PEO1, PEO4) and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) (MDA-MB-231 and MDA-MB-436) cells were exposed to differential hypoxic conditions (0.5-2% O2) and compared to normoxia (21% O2). Results demonstrated that in hypoxic conditions some significant changes in glycosylation on the secreted N-glycans from the ovarian and breast cancer cell lines were observed. These included, alterations in oligomannosylated, bisected glycans, glycans with polylactosamine extensions, in branching, galactosylation and sialylation in all cell lines except for PEO1. In general, hypoxia exposed ovarian and TNBC cells also displayed increased epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and migration, with a greater effect seen in the 0.5% hypoxia exposed samples compared to 1 and 2% hypoxia (p ≤ 0.05). SiRNA transient knock down of GATA2/3 transcription factors resulted in a decrease in the expression of glycosyltransferases ST3GAL4 and MGAT5, which are responsible for sialylation and branching, respectively. 

Conclusions: These glycan changes are known to be integral to cancer cell survival and metastases, suggesting a possible mechanism of action, linking GATA2 and 3, and invasiveness of both ovarian and TNBC cells in vitro


Science foundation Ireland Starting Investigator Research grant (SFI SIRG) under grant number 13/SIRG/2164

Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity, grant BIO 2015-66356-R



The original article is available at

Published Citation

Greville G. et al. Hypoxia alters epigenetic and N-glycosylation profiles of ovarian and breast cancer cell lines in-vitro. Front Oncol. 2020;10:1218.

Publication Date

29 July 2020

PubMed ID



  • Data Science Centre

Research Area

  • Cancer
  • Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders
  • Gynaecology, Obstetrics and Perinatal Health


Frontiers Research Foundation


  • Published Version (Version of Record)