BackgroundTreatment with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is the gold standard adjuvant immunotherapy of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC), although it fails in one third of the patients. NMIBC expresses two tumor-associated O-linked carbohydrates: the disaccharide (Galβ1,3GalNAc) Thomsen-Friedenreich (T) antigen, and its sialylated counterpart (Siaα2,3Galβ1,3GalNAc) sialyl-T (sT), synthesized by sialyltransferase ST3GAL1, whose roles in BCG response are unknown.MethodsThe human bladder cancer (BC) cell line HT1376 strongly expressing the T antigen, was retrovirally transduced with the ST3GAL1 cDNA or with an empty vector, yielding the cell lines HT1376sT and HT1376T, that express, respectively, either the sT or the T antigens. Cells were in vitro challenged with BCG. Whole gene expression was studied by microarray technology, cytokine secretion was measured by multiplex immune-beads assay. Human macrophages derived from blood monocytes were challenged with the secretome of BCG-challenged BC cells.ResultsThe secretome from BCG-challenged HT1376sT cells induced a stronger macrophage secretion of IL-6, IL-1β, TNFα and IL-10 than that of HT1376T cells. Transcriptomic analysis revealed that ST3GAL1 overexpression and T/sT replacement modulated hundreds of genes. Several genes preserving genomic stability were down-regulated in HT1376sT cells which, as a consequence, displayed increased sensitivity to oxidative damage. After BCG challenge, the transcriptome of HT1376sT cells showed higher susceptibility to BCG modulation than that of HT1376T cells.ConclusionsHigh ST3GAL1 expression and T/sT replacement in BCG challenged-BC cancer cells induce a stronger macrophage response and alter the gene expression towards genomic instability, indicating a potential impact on BC biology and patient’s response to BCG.