Komura K, Ise H, Akaike T.
The cytoskeleton protein vimentin is dramatically altered following pathological events such as fibrosis and tumorigenesis. Vimentin binds to multivalent N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) molecules at the cell surface and interacts with O-linked β-GlcNAc proteins. Moreover, dying cells can be engulfed by neighboring cells through surface interactions between vimentin and many O-GlcNAc proteins in cell debris. Here, we show that vimentin was altered by its interaction with GlcNAc-bearing molecules such as GlcNAc-bearing polymers. The interaction with GlcNAc-bearing polymers promoted the cell surface recruitment of vimentin followed by the phosphorylation of vimentin serine 71 and the increase in tetrameric vimentin disassembled from vimentin filaments in HeLa cells. Moreover, it was found that GlcNAc-bearing polymers and O-GlcNAc proteins from dying cells promoted vimentin expression and cell migration in the Madin-Darby canine kidney and Michigan Cancer Foundation-7 cells. These results suggest that interactions between surface vimentin and GlcNAc molecules, including the O-GlcNAc proteins from dying cells, may play a pivotal role in vimentin expression and the migration of cancer cells. We propose new mechanisms of vimentin expression in cancer cells.