The molecular mechanism that in human bladder tumors leads to the loss of blood group ABO glycosyltransferase activity and, thereby, the loss of ABO antigens was investigated. In 15 tumors and 3 normal biopsies from blood group AB individuals and 7 tumors and 3 normal biopsies from blood group O individuals, mRNA was detected by a reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) assay, and the ABO blood group structure was determined by immunohistology. The RT-PCR spanned several introns in the ABO gene to exclude DNA contamination, and the RT-PCR product was shown to reflect the ABO gene message by dideoxy sequencing. The ABO mRNA was present in normal urothelium and low-grade tumors but disappeared from high grade tumors. This correlation to tumor grade was significant (P < 0.04). Immunohistochemistry with monoclonal anti-blood group antibodies showed a complete correlation between the presence of mRNA and the presence of AB carbohydrate structures on cell surfaces. In two urothelial cell lines, genotyped as A/- and A/A, growth stimulation with the cholera toxin B subunit led to a total loss of ABO mRNA, and epidermal growth factor stimulation had an identical effect on one of the cell lines. We conclude that the ABO glycosylation in normal and malignant urothelium is regulated at the mRNA level, and that a mechanism associated with cell proliferation may trigger down-regulation of ABO mRNA.

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This work was supported by the Danish Cancer Research Fund; the Danish Cancer Society; the Blood Donor Foundation; the NOVO-Nordic Foundation; the Institute of Experimental Clinical Research, Aarhus University; the Clinical Oncology Trial Unit, Danish Cancer Society, Aarhus; and Legatstiftelsen Pedersholm.

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