Aberrant mucin-type O-glycosylation by glycosyltransferases is a well-described hallmark of many cancers and is also associated with additional non-cancerous developmental and metabolic disorders. The current review focuses on N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase genes (GALNTs) and proteins (GalNAcTs) to illustrate their importance in cancer biology. Aberrant O-glycosylation by GalNAcTs activates a wide range of proteins that carry out interactions of sessile and motile cells affecting organogenesis, responses to agonists and stimulating hyperproliferation and metastatisation of neoplastic cells. As genome-wide analyses have provided abundant clues regarding under- or over-expressed genes that characterize different types of cancers, GALNTs and their transferase products have attracted attention by being unexpected actors in neoplastic contexts. We intend to review the current knowledge on GALNTs and their encoded transferases in cancer and suggest what could be the significance of such information in cancer pathogenesis and management.
Keywords: N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferases; O-linked glycoprotein biosynthesis; cancer markers