An important class of tumor-specific antigens is encoded by male germline-specific genes, such as MAGE genes, that are activated in many cancers of various histological types as a result of the demethylation of their promoter region. A number of these genes were shown to be expressed exclusively during the spermatogonia stage of spermatogenesis. A recent study reported the isolation of a new set of mouse genes that are expressed in spermatogonia but not in somatic tissues. Here, we tested the tumoral expression of the human orthologs of 12 of these genes. A remarkably high proportion, i.e., 5 of 12 genes, was found to be activated in a significant fraction of tumor samples of various histological types. Expression levels of the 5 genes, namely, NXF2, TAF2Q, FTHL17, TDRD1 and TEX15, were evaluated in normal and tumoral tissues. Except for TEX15, these genes showed sufficiently high expression levels in tumors and low background transcription in normal somatic tissues to qualify them as genes that potentially code for tumor-specific antigens. Like previously described cancer-germline genes, the 5 genes were induced in cells treated with a demethylating agent.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.