Systemic blockade of sialylation in mice with a global inhibitor of sialyltransferases

Macauley MS, Arlian BM, Rillahan CD, Pang PC, Bortell N, Marcondes MC, Haslam SM, Dell A, Paulson JC. J Biol Chem. 2014 Dec 19;289(51):35149-58. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M114.606517. PMID: 25368325

Sialic acid terminates glycans of glycoproteins and glycolipids that play numerous biological roles in health and disease. Although genetic tools are available for interrogating the effects of decreased or abolished sialoside expression in mice, pharmacological inhibition of the sialyltransferase family has, to date, not been possible. We have recently shown that a sialic acid analog, 2,4,7,8,9-pentaacetyl-3Fax-Neu5Ac-CO2Me (3F-NeuAc), added to the media of cultured cells shuts down sialylation by a mechanism involving its intracellular conversion to CMP-3F-NeuAc, a competitive inhibitor of all sialyltransferases. Here we show that administering 3F-NeuAc to mice dramatically decreases sialylated glycans in cells of all tissues tested, including blood, spleen, liver, brain, lung, heart, kidney, and testes. A single dose results in greatly decreased sialoside expression for over 7 weeks in some tissues. Although blockade of sialylation with 3F-NeuAc does not affect viability of cultured cells, its use in vivo has a deleterious “on target” effect on liver and kidney function. After administration of 3F-NeuAc, liver enzymes in the blood are dramatically altered, and mice develop proteinuria concomitant with dramatic loss of sialic acid in the glomeruli within 4 days, leading to irreversible kidney dysfunction and failure to thrive. These results confirm a critical role for sialosides in liver and kidney function and document the feasibility of pharmacological inhibition of sialyltransferases for in vivo modulation of sialoside expression.