TA3/Ha murine mammary carcinoma cells grow in suspension, do not adhere to extracellular matrix molecules, but do adhere to hepatocytes and form liver metastases upon intraportal injection. Recently we showed that the integrin alpha 6 beta 4 on the TA3/Ha cells is involved in adhesion to hepatocytes. However, despite high cell surface levels of alpha 6 beta 4, TA3/Ha cells do not adhere to the alpha 6 beta 4 ligands laminin and kalinin. Here we show that this is due to the mucin epiglycanin that is highly expressed on TA3/Ha cells. Some monoclonal antibodies generated against epiglycanin induced capping of most of the epiglycanin molecules. TA3/Ha cells treated with these mAb did adhere to laminin and kalinin, and an epithelial monolayer was formed on kalinin, with alpha 6 beta 4 localized in HD1-containing hemidesmosome-like structures and E-cadherin at the cell-cell contact sites. Similar results were obtained after treatment of TA3/Ha cells with O-sialoglycoprotein endopeptidase which removes all epiglycanin. In addition, the enzyme induced E-cadherin-mediated cell-cell aggregation. Both treatments also enhanced the adhesion to hepatocytes, but given the potent antiadhesive effect of epiglycanin it is remarkable that nontreated TA3/Ha cells adhere to hepatocytes at all. We found that during this interaction, epiglycanin was redistributed. We conclude that epiglycanin can completely prevent both intercellular and matrix adhesion, but that this effect can be overcome in certain intercellular interactions because of the induced redistribution of the mucin.

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