We applied a strategy that utilized a combination of systematic gene expression analysis with various tissues and immunological detection with sera from melanoma patients to identify melanoma antigens expressed preferentially in melanoma and melanocytes. We selected 101 genes by comparing cDNA profiles obtained by GeneChip analysis of a highly pigmented melanoma cell line, SKmel23, primary cultured melanocytes, HUVECs cultured endothelial cells, keratinocytes, liver and stomach. After the additional selection with criterion of high registered frequency of each cDNA in melanocyte-related cDNA libraries in the NCBI database, 15 genes including 12 known melanocyte specific genes were identified. One of the remaining 3 genes, FCRL/FREB, encoding a member of the Fc receptor family that was previously reported to express in germinal center B cells, was found to express preferentially in melanocytes and melanoma tissues by RT-PCR and Northern blot analysis. The FCRL/FREB protein was detected in the cytoplasm of melanoma cells by staining with the murine polyclonal antibody and by transfection with GFP-fused FCRL/FREB cDNA. The bacterial recombinant protein was recognized by serum IgG antibody obtained from some patients with melanoma. These results suggest that FCRL/FREB may function in melanocytes and melanoma and may be useful for development of diagnostic methods for various pigment disorders and immunotherapy of melanoma.
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