The CA 125 gene: an extracellular superstructure dominated by repeat sequences

Tumour Biol. Nov-Dec 2001;22(6):348-66. doi: 10.1159/000050638.


CA 125 has long presented problems to both clinicians and investigators because there was no definitive information on its structure and function. Here, we describe our work on cloning the CA 125 gene with the anticipation that such information will provide the basis for understanding its structure and its physiologic role in both normal and malignant tissues. The CA 125 protein core is composed of a short cytoplasmic tail, a transmembrane domain and an extraordinarily large glycosylated extracellular structure. This structure is dominated by a repeat domain composed of 156 amino acid repeat units which encompass the epitope binding sites. The molecule also includes an amino terminal domain of serine/threonine-rich sequences which would account for most of the O-glycosylation known to be present in CA 125. CA 125 is an unusually large transmembrane glycoprotein. Its release from the surface of the cell is most probably dependent on cytoplasmic phosphorylation followed by proteolytic cleavage. The extracellular domain is characterized by a large number of repeat units (probably 60+) which encompass an interactive disulfide bridged cysteine-loop and the site of OC125 and M11 binding. Sequencing the gene provides us with the ability to initiate the quest to understand the biological function of CA 125.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • CA-125 Antigen / biosynthesis
  • CA-125 Antigen / genetics*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 19*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Female
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mucins / biosynthesis
  • Mucins / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Sequence Analysis


  • CA-125 Antigen
  • Mucins