Purpose: The human cancer-testis antigens (CTAs) are a group of tumor specific antigens recognized by cytotoxic T lymphocytes whose expression occurs in human malignancies as well as in normal testicular tissue. We studied a series of CTA gene transcripts in testicular germ cell tumors of various histological types to test the hypothesis that the expression of CTA in testicular germ cell tumors reflects developmental stages of tumorigenesis rather than constitutive tumor antigens recognized by cytotoxic T lymphocytes.
Materials and methods: Total RNA was obtained from 31 primary and 3 metastatic testicular germ cell tumors, and 11 parenchymal tissues adjacent to the testicular germ cell tumors. We performed an expression study of the CTA genes MAGE-A, MAGE-B, GAGE, PAGE-1, HOM-MEL-40 (SSX2), NY-ESO-1, LAGE-1 and SCP-1 in these samples using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction.
Results: The results showed that expression patterns of CTA genes depended on the histological differentiation of the testicular germ cell tumors. Overall CTA expression was more common in seminomas than in nonseminomatous germ cell tumors. Specifically all 13 seminomas (100%) demonstrated the positive expression of MAGE-B1 and MAGE-B2, while 3 of 17 nonseminomatous germ cell tumor samples (18%) showed positive expression of these genes. All 5 teratomatous elements (100%) had homogenous null expression with regard to all CTA genes examined. In addition, we detected deficiencies in CTA expression in 7 of 11 parenchymal tissues adjacent to the testicular germ cell tumors (64%).
Conclusions: These data support the idea that CTA transcripts in testicular germ cell tumors serve as developmental footprints of testicular germ cell tumors rather than as constitutive tumor antigens recognized by cytotoxic T lymphocytes.