Afamin--A pleiotropic glycoprotein involved in various disease states

Clin Chim Acta. 2015 Jun 15;446:105-10. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2015.04.010. Epub 2015 Apr 16.


The human glycoprotein afamin was discovered as the fourth member of the albumin gene family. Despite intense research over the last 20 years, our knowledge of afamin's physiological or pathophysiological functions is still very limited. Circulating afamin is primarily of hepatic origin and abundant concentrations are found in plasma, cerebrospinal, ovarian follicular and seminal fluids. In vitro binding studies revealed specific binding properties for vitamin E. A previously performed analytical characterization and clinical evaluation study of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for quantitative measurement of afamin in human plasma demonstrated that the afamin assay meets the quality specifications for laboratory medicine. Comparative proteomics has identified afamin as a potential biomarker for ovarian cancer and these findings were confirmed by quantitative immunoassay of afamin and validated in independent cohorts of patients with ovarian cancer. Afamin has also been investigated in other types of carcinoma. Most of these studies await further evaluation with validated quantitative afamin assays and require validation in larger patient cohorts. Transgenic mice overexpressing the human afamin gene revealed increased body weight and increased blood concentrations of lipids and glucose. These transgenic mouse data were in line with three large human population-based studies showing that afamin is strongly associated with the prevalence and development of the metabolic syndrome. This review summarizes and discusses the molecular, biochemical and analytical characterization of afamin as well as possible clinical applications of afamin measurement.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Metabolic syndrome; Neuroprotection; Pregnancy; Prognosis; Tumor marker.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / blood*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Glycoproteins / blood*
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Diseases / blood*
  • Metabolic Diseases / diagnosis
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Serum Albumin, Human
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Vitamin E / blood
  • Vitamin E / metabolism


  • AFM protein, human
  • Biomarkers
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Glycoproteins
  • Serum Albumin
  • Vitamin E
  • Serum Albumin, Human