The significance of water in a promising biomarker against cancer | 10/12/2018 | Staff
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The Tn antigen appears in 90 percent of cancers and is associated with metastasis. Thus, it is a promising biomarker for identifying cancer cells and has become a very attractive target in therapies to fight cancer, according to 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 recognized by the immune system as a threat, which induce the formation of antibodies.

The researchers studied two apparently similar variants of Tn antigens that differ only in one serine or threonine amino acid. "We have seen that they behave very differently in water," said 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 that helps to stabilise the structure. By contrast, the Tn antigen bonded with serine lacks the structural component and is flexible in solution. These differences are not observed in the gas phase studies, and both molecules behave in exactly the same way, which has made it possible to unequivocally discover, for the first time, the role of water in the three-dimensional structure of these molecules," he added.

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The researchers sought to understand the active role of water in this process. "We have been adding water molecules one by one to see how the Tn antigen behaved. We have seen that adding just one water...
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