The expression by tumor cells of proteins with aberrant structure, expression or distribution accounts for the development of a humoral immune response. Autoantibodies (aAb) directed against tumor-associated antigens (TAA) may thus be particularly relevant for early detection of cancer. Serological proteome analysis (SERPA) aims to identify such circulating aAb through the immunoblotting of 2D-separated tumor cell proteins with cancer patient serum and the consecutive MS identification of proteins in reactive spots. This method has the advantage to use post-translationally modified proteins as a source of potential TAA. Here, we applied this strategy by using colorectal tumor cells pre-exposed to hypoxia in order to promote the expression of a pattern of TAA more likely to represent in vivo conditions. We used two human HCT116 and HT29 colorectal cancer cell lines exposed for 48 hours to 1% O. Spots positive after immunoblotting of 2D-separated lysates of hypoxic cells with the sera of tumor-bearing mice, were collected and analysed by MS for protein identification. Among the hypoxia-specific immunogenic proteins, we identified a phosphorylated form of eukaryotic translation elongation factor 2 (phospho-Thr56 eEF2). We confirmed the increased phosphorylation of this protein in hypoxic colorectal tumor cells as well as in mouse tumors. Using a specific immunoassay, we could detect the presence of corresponding anti-phospho-Thr56 eEF2 aAb in the serum of tumor-bearing mice (vs healthy mice). We further documented that the detection of these aAb preceded the detection of a palpable tumor mass in mice and validated the presence of anti-phospho-Thr56 eEF2 aAb in the serum of patients with adenomatous polyps and colorectal carcinoma. In conclusion, this study validates a phosphorylated form of eEF2 as a new TAA and more generally, provides evidence that integrating hypoxia upstream of SERPA offers a more relevant repertoire of TAA able to unmask the presence of circulating aAb.
Grandjean, M., Sermeus, A., Branders, S., Defresne, F., Dieu, M., Dupont, P., Raes, M., De Ridder, M., & Feron, O. (2013). Hypoxia Integration in the Serological Proteome Analysis Unmasks Tumor Antigens and Fosters the Identification of Anti-Phospho-eEF2 Antibodies as Potential Cancer Biomarkers. PLoS Genetics, 8(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0076508