Easily measurable biomarkers are urgently required to detect early stages of cancer progression. Autoantibodies (aAbs), as a component of the humoral immune response against tumor cells, have such potential of diagnostic markers since they are circulating and stable proteins, produced rapidly and easily amenable to in vitro dosage. The identification of aAbs is based on the characterization of tumor-associated antigens (TAA) against which they are directed.Here, we propose a new method for an unbiased identification of TAA and thereby of aAbs as cancer biomarkers. This method that we called sequential immunoaffinity depletion-differential in gel electrophoresis (SID-DIGE) is based on the immunodepletion of tumor cell lysates with IgG from control and tumor-bearing mice and direct matching of the flow throughs of these immunoaffinity separations on the same 2D format. This strategy reduces the complexity of the samples to be analyzed and maximizes the interest of assessing hundreds of proteins simultaneously. SID-DIGE has also the potential, contrary to existing serological proteome analysis (SERPA) techniques, to detect immunogenic proteins with conformational epitopes, including those resulting from post-translational modifications. Using a model of human colorectal tumors in mice for the proof of principle, we showed that SID-DIGE outperforms the conventional SERPA technique, with the identification of 7 common TAA (validating our approach) and 18 additional aAbs proving the potential of this new method. In particular, the identification of aAbs directed against key enzymes supporting glycolysis gives credential to the role of hypoxia as a major determinant of the tumor proteome and thus as a source of immunogenicity. Overall, the developed methodology allowed efficient screening of sera for the identification of aAbs as potential biomarkers.
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