The present study investigated the mechanism underlying alterations of cell surface sugar chains of Jurkat cells by inducing apoptosis with etoposide, an inhibitor of topoisomerase II. Within 3 h of etoposide treatment, flowcytometric analysis revealed a decrease in Maackia amurensis agglutinin recognized α2,3-linked sialic acid moieties and an increase in Ricinus communis agglutinin recognized galactose. The results suggested that asialo-sugar chains on glycoconjugates were rapidly induced on the etoposide-treated cell surface. To clarify the desialylation mechanism, we studied α2,3-sialyltransferase mRNA expression and the activity of slalidase on the cell surface during etoposide-induced apoptosis. The expression of hST3Gal III and hST3Gal IV mRNAs were down-regulated and sialidase activity on the cell surface increased threefold within 2 h of etoposide treatment, Moreover, the decrease in α2,3-linked sialic acid levels was significantly suppressed in the presence of 2,3-dehydro-2-deoxy-H-acetylneuraminic acid, an inhibitor of sialidase. These results suggested that activation or exposure of sialidase on the cell surface was induced by etoposide treatment and was the main cause of the decrease in sialic acids.
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