Adhesion molecules play a critical role in the adhesive interactions of multiple cell types in sickle cell disease (SCD). We previously showed that anti-P-selectin aptamer efficiently inhibits cell adhesion to endothelial cells (ECs) and permits SCD mice to survive hypoxic stress. In an effort to discover new mechanisms with which to inhibit P-selectin, we examined the role of glycosylation. P-selectin is a 90 kDa protein but was found to migrate as 90 and 140 kDa bands on gel electrophoresis. When P-selectin isolated from ECs was digested with peptide N -glycosidase F, but not O-glycosidase, the 140 kDa band was lost and the 90 kDa band was enhanced. Treatment of ECs with tunicamycin, an N-glycosylation inhibitor, suppressed CD62P (P-selectin) expression on the cell surface as well as the 140 kDa form in the cytoplasm. These results indicate that the 140 kDa band is N-glycosylated and glycosylation is critical for cell surface expression of P-selectin in ECs. Thrombin, which stimulates P-selectin expression on ECs, induced AKT phosphorylation, whereas tunicamycin inhibited AKT phosphorylation, suggesting that AKT signaling is involved in the tunicamycin-mediated inhibition of Pselectin expression. Importantly, the adhesion of sickle red blood cells (sRBCs) and leukocytes to ECs induced by thrombin or hypoxia was markedly inhibited by two structurally distinct glycosylation inhibitors; the levels of which were comparable to that of a P-selectin monoclonal antibody which most strongly inhibited cell adhesion in vivo. Knockdown studies of P-selectin using short-hairpin RNAs in ECs suppressed sRBC adhesion, indicating a legitimate role for P-selectin in sRBC adhesion. Together, these results demonstrate that P-selectin expression on ECs is regulated in part by glycosylation mechanisms and that glycosylation inhibitors efficiently reduce the adhesion of sRBCs and leukocytes to ECs. Glycosylation inhibitors may lead to a novel therapy which inhibits cell adhesion in SCD.
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