Glycosylation is one of the most abundant post-translational modifications that occur within the cell. Under normal physiological conditions, O-linked glycosylation of extracellular proteins is critical for both structure and function. During the progression of cancer, however, the expression of aberrant and truncated glycans is commonly observed. Mucins are high molecular weight glycoproteins that contain numerous sites of O-glycosylation within their extracellular domains. Transmembrane mucins also play a functional role in monitoring the surrounding microenvironment and transducing these signals into the cell. In cancer, these mucins often take on an oncogenic role and promote a number of pro-tumorigenic effects, including pro-survival, migratory, and invasive behaviors. Within this review, we highlight both the processes involved in the expression of aberrant glycan structures on mucins, as well as the potential downstream impacts on cellular signaling.
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© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.