To identify new melanoma antigens using systematic gene expression analysis combined with rapid screening of patient sera for immunogenicity, a serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) method was applied to profile transcripts in a highly pigmented melanoma cell line SKmel23. 25,997 SAGE tags consisting of 10,382 unique transcripts were sequenced. This melanoma SAGE library was compared with a testis SAGE library and the colon SAGE database, and to the cDNA database obtained by random sequencing of a melanocyte cDNA library. Among the 15 tags finally selected with criteria of preferential expression on melanoma and melanocytes at relatively high frequency, two tags were further analyzed for their structure and immunogenicity. One was identified as PAX3, and its isoform, PAX3d, was found to be dominantly expressed in melanoma and melanocytes. The other was derived from a novel gene and its full-length cDNA clone was isolated. Preferential expression of these genes in melanoma and melanocytes was confirmed by RT-PCR and Northern blot analysis. The recombinant bacterial PAX3d protein was recognized by serum IgG from some patients with melanoma and Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) disease but not from healthy individuals, indicating that PAX3d is a new melanocyte-specific antigen immunogenic in patients with melanoma or VKH disease. The authors report two melanocyte/melanoma-specific molecules, which may be useful for development of diagnosis or treatment of these pigment disorders. In addition, a system using SAGE and immunoscreening with patients' sera is shown to be an efficient method for the systematic identification of tumor antigens.
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