Relationship between ST8SIA2, polysialic acid and its binding molecules, and psychiatric disorders.
Polysialyltransferases ST8SiaII/STX and ST8SiaIV/PST add polysialic acid (PSA) to the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM). Surface-located PSA is involved in cell-cell interactions participating in structural and functional plasticity of neuronal circuits. This study was undertaken to investigate the polysialyltransferase regulation pattern during hippocampal development. Polysialyltransferase expression levels analyzed by real-time RT-PCR indicated that ST8SiaII/STX mRNA is markedly down-regulated in vivo, decreasing abruptly at about the first week of postnatal development. ST8SiaII/STX mRNA is also down-regulated in hippocampal cells in culture, accompanying the morphological differentiation of neuronal interconnectivity. In contrast, ST8SiaIV/PST levels remain comparatively low during hippocampus ontogeny. Immunolabeling of primary hippocampal culture assays demonstrated that PSA expression parallels ST8SiaII/STX mRNA levels. In comparison, polysialyltransferase mRNA levels are not regulated in neuroblastoma cells during their proliferation. Sequence analysis of the 3'-untranslated region of ST8SiaII/STX cDNA indicated putative regulatory motifs. This information and the observed changes in mRNA half-life during development suggest that ST8SiaII/STX might be also regulated at the posttranscriptional level. To understand the reasons for the tight control of ST8SiaII/STX expression during development, we overexpressed the enzyme in hippocampal primary cultures by transfection. Overexpression of ST8SiaII/STX wild type as well as of a mutant lacking enzymatic activity affected neuronal viability, leading to cell death. However, this phenomenon was abolished by a double mutation in the ST8SiaII/STX that prevents formation of its three-dimentional structure. Interestingly, the overexpressed polysialyltransferase accumulates not only in the perinuclear region but also in the plasma membrane. Thus, overexpression of an ST8SiaII/STX that conserves its structure leads to abnormal accumulation of the protein, probably on the neuronal surface, affecting cell viability. This result explains the importance of an accurate regulation of polysialyltransferase expression during development.