The DF3 antigen is a member of a family of high molecular weight glycoproteins aberrantly expressed in malignant mammary epithelium. We have generated a monoclonal antibody (MAb), designated DF3-P, against a recombinant DF3/β-galactosidase fusion protein. Characterization of this MAb has demonstrated reactivity with immature precursors of DF3 antigen and not with the secreted form. These findings are in contrast to those obtained with MAb DF3, a previously described antibody with predominant reactivity against the mature glycoprotein. The finding that deglycosylation of secreted DF3 antigen with neuraminidase and endo-α-N-acetylgalactosaminidase is associated with increased MAb DF3-P reactivity provided additional support for the selectivity of this antibody against the protein core. Epitope mapping studies demonstrate that both the DF3-P and DF3 epitopes are located at a TRPAPGS domain in the 20-amino acid tandem repeat. The results of competition studies with synthetic peptides indicate that the proline in this domain is involved in both epitopes, while the potential glycosylation sites at threonine and serine may contribute to the differential reactivity of MAbs DF3 and DF3-P. Taken together, these findings suggest that both antibodies react with a similar epitope that is modified by the presence of carbohydrate moieties. The results of immunoperoxidase staining studies further demonstrate that while MAb DF3-P reacts with formalin-fixed sections of breast carcinomas, this antibody exhibits little if any reactivity with normal mammary epithelium. Selective expression of the DF3-P epitope in malignant breast cells may be useful in identifying this transformed phenotype.

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This investigation was supported in part by la Ligue Vaudoise et la Ligue Suisse Contre le Cancer and la Fondation Muschamp, Lausanne, Switzerland (L. P.).

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