The B subunit of bacterial Shiga toxin (STxB) is nontoxic and has low immunogenicity. Its receptor, the glycosphingolipid Gb3/CD77, is overexpressed on the cell surface of human colorectal cancer. We tested whether genetic porcine models, closely resembling human anatomy and pathophysiology, can be used to exploit the tumor-targeting potential of STxB. In accordance with findings on human colorectal cancer, the pig model APC1311 bound STxB in colorectal tumors, but not in normal colon or jejunum, except for putative enteroendocrine cells. In primary tumor cells from endoscopic biopsies, STxB was rapidly taken up along the retrograde intracellular route to the Golgi, whereas normal colon organoids did not bind or internalize STxB. Next, we tested a porcine model (TP53LSL-R167H) for osteosarcoma, a tumor entity with a dismal prognosis and insufficient treatment options, hitherto not known to express Gb3. Pig osteosarcoma strongly bound StxB and expressed the Gb3 synthase 1,4-galactosyltransferase (A4GALT). Primary osteosarcoma cells, but not normal osteoblasts, rapidly internalized fluorescently labeled STxB along the retrograde route to the Golgi. Importantly, six of eight human osteosarcoma cell lines expressed A4GALT mRNA and showed prominent intracellular uptake of STxB. The physiologic role of A4GALT was tested by CRISPR/Cas9 mutagenesis in porcine LLC-PK1 kidney epithelial cells and RNAi in MG-63 human osteosarcoma cells. A4GALT deficiency or knockdown abolished STxB uptake and led to significantly reduced cell migration and proliferation, hinting toward a putative tumor-promoting role of Gb3. Thus, pig models are suitable tools for STxB-based tumor targeting and may allow “reverse-translational” predictions on human tumor biology.

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