The significance of water in a promising biomarker against cancer
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IMAGE: Emilio J. Cocinero, member of the UPV/EHU’s Department of Physical Chemistry and the Biofisika Institute has collaborated with Francisco Corzana of the University of La Rioja, and Ramón Hurtado of… view more 

Credit: Egoi Markaida. UPV/EHU

The Tn antigen appears in 90% of cancers and is associated with metastasis. That is why “they are very promising biomarkers for identifying cancer cells and have become very attractive targets in therapies to fight cancer”, explained Emilio José Cocinero, member of the UPV/EHU’s Department of Physical Chemistry and the Biofísika Institute, and one of the lead authors of the work. Antigens are molecules that induce the formation of antibodies because the immune system recognises them as a threat, which means they have the potential to unleash an immune response.

Two apparently similar variants of Tn antigens, which differ only in one serine or threonine amino acid, have been studied in this piece of work. Yet “we have seen that they behave very differently in water”, pointed out Emilio José Cocinero. “By using an approach that is both experimental and computational, we have shown that the Tn antigen bonded with threonine adopts a rigid shape in solution thanks to a water molecule

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