The absence of highly specific markers for malignant mesothelioma (MM) has served an obstacle for its diagnosis and development of molecular-targeting therapy against MM. Here, we show that a novel mucin-like membrane protein, sialylated protein HEG homolog 1 (HEG1), is a highly specific marker for MM. A monoclonal antibody against sialylated HEG1, SKM9-2, can detect even sarcomatoid and desmoplastic MM. The specificity and sensitivity of SKM9-2 to MM reached 99% and 92%, respectively; this antibody did not react with normal tissues. This accurate discrimination by SKM9-2 was due to the recognition of a sialylated O-linked glycan with HEG1 peptide. We also found that gene silencing of HEG1 significantly suppressed the survival and proliferation of mesothelioma cells; this result suggests that HEG1 may be a worthwhile target for function-inhibition drugs. Taken together, our results indicate that sialylated HEG1 may be useful as a diagnostic and therapeutic target for MM.
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