Naturally generated autoantibodies to tumor-associ- ated antigens such as MUC1 can assist in cancer diagnosis and prognosis. While previous studies have concentrated on the tandem repeat array domain of MUC1, here we focused on MUC1's signal peptide domain. We used ELISA assays with MUC1-specific epitopes and antibodies to quantify soluble MUC1 antigen and anti-MUC1 autoantibodies against the tandem repeat array and signal peptide domains in 15 naïve donors and 27 multiple myeloma cancer patients. We showed a significant increase in up to 24--fold (P<0.004) only in the levels of anti-MUC1 signal peptide autoantibodies in the sera of multiple myeloma patients vs. naïve donors. This increase stemmed chiefly from the preferred immunogenicity of the signal peptide. Moreover, a significant positive correlation (R 2=0.5361, P<0.048, Pearson correlation) was shown between the levels of soluble MUC1 and anti-MUC1 signal peptide autoantibodies in multiple myeloma patients with progressive disease while under therapy. This is an initial report on the existence of autoantibodies to a signal peptide domain in general and to the MUC1 signal peptide domain in particular in cancer patients. The autoantibodies had MUC1 rather than signal peptide specificity. The specific nature of the antigen leading to generation of these autoantibodies is still unclear because it is unlikely that the target antigen is a major histocompatibility complex-peptide complex and we could not trace soluble MUC1 signal peptide fragments in naïve donors and multiple myeloma patients. Further validation of these findings may improve diagnostic and prognostic capabilities for MUC1-positive multiple myeloma patients and potentially, patients with other MUC1-positive cancers, as well.
- Multiple myeloma
- Signal peptide