2017 February 22

The Immunohematology and Glycobiology Group describe the biology of the rare Forssman antigen (FORS1) associated with some cancers

Miyako Yamamoto and her colleagues at the Immunohematology and Glycobiology Group at the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute have published a paper entitled “Crosstalk between ABO and Forssman (FORS) blood group systems: FORS1 antigen synthesis by ABO gene-encoded glycosyltransferases” in the journal Scientific Reports.

Dr Fumi Yamamoto, the leader of the Immunohematology and Glycobiology Group, is famous for discovering the genetics behind the complex system of signals on the outside of blood cells that determine the ABO blood groups. Understanding the complexity of blood groups is essential when treating blood disorders and especially when giving blood transfusions. As well as ABO there are other types of signals on blood cells and one of these, identified as the 31st blood system,involves Forssman glycolipid synthethase (FS) which produces the Forssman signal (FORS1). It was thought that humans didn't have this signal on their blood cells, but some rare individuals of the A blood group do have it. The Forssman signal has also been found to be present in some cases of cancer, but exactly what connection it has with the disease is still not known.

In this work Miyako Yamamoto describes the incredibly complex mechanism by which the ABO system may manufacture the Forssman signal under certain conditions. This is in important step on the path to discovering the complete mechanism and how it might be involved in cancer. This type of basic research is an essential stage in the chain to discover new drugs to interfere with mechanisms in cells to prevent cancers appearing or to treat those that have.

Link to publication: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep41632