Role of ovarian cancer antigen CA125/MUC16 in development and cancer

Dong-Joo (Ellen) Cheon, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Cancer antigen 125 (CA125) is a tumor antigen that is routinely used to monitor the disease progress and the outcome of treatment in ovarian cancer patients. Elevated serum levels of CA125 are detected in over 80% of epithelial ovarian cancer patients. CA125 is a high molecular weight (>1M Dalton) mucin-type glycoprotein encoded by the MUC16 gene on human chromosome 19. Although MUC16 has served as the best serum marker for monitoring growth of ovarian cancer, roles for MUC16 in normal physiology and ovarian cancer are largely unknown. To understand the biological functions of MUC16, I characterized a mouse Muc16 homolog on chromosome 9 by means of expression pattern profiling, phenotype analysis of Muc16 knockout mice, and in vitro and in vivo studies of Muc16 null transformed ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) cells. The mouse Muc16 homolog shares a conserved genomic structure with human MUC16. In addition to being expressed in mouse ovarian cancer, mouse Muc16 mRNA and protein were expressed in the mesothelia covering the heart, lung, ovary, oviduct, spleen, testis, and uterus. The conserved genomic structure and expression pattern of mouse Muc16 to human MUC16 suggests that mouse Muc16 is the ortholog of human MUC16. To understand the biological functions of Muc16, I generated Muc16 knockout mice. Muc16 knockout mice were viable, fertile and normal by one year of age. However, between 18 and 24 months of age, Muc16 knockout mice developed various tissue abnormalities such as ovarian cysts and tumors of the liver and other peritoneal organs. To determine the role of MUC16 in ovarian cancer progression, I established Muc16 null transformed ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) cell lines, following the same method to develop mouse model of epithelial ovarian cancer (Orsulic et al., 2002). Loss of Muc16 did not affect cell morphology, cell proliferation rate, or tumorigenic potential. However, Muc16-null OSE cells showed decreased attachment to extracellular matrix proteins as well as to primary mouse peritoneal mesothelial cells. Peritoneal mesothelia are the most frequent implantation sites of ovarian cancer. Furthermore, a pilot transplantation assay suggests that Muc16 null transformed OSE cells formed less disseminated tumors in the peritoneal cavity compared to wild-type OSE cells. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that MUC16 is not required for normal mouse development or reproduction, but plays important roles in tissue homeostasis, ovarian cancer cell adhesion and dissemination. This study provides the first in vivo evidence of the roles of MUC16 in development, as well as ovarian cancer progression and dissemination. These studies offer valuable insights into possible mechanisms of ovarian cancer development and potential molecular targets for ovarian cancer treatment.

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Recommended Citation

Cheon, Dong-Joo (Ellen), "Role of ovarian cancer antigen CA125/MUC16 in development and cancer" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3376909.