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Expression of the carcinoma markers: the sialylated Lewis A and X carbohydrate antigens in normal laryngeal surface epithelium and submucosal glands from old humans


Svend Kirkeby, Department of Oral Medicine, Dental School, Health Science Faculty, University of Copenhagen, Nørre Allé 20, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark. e-mail:


Aberrant surface expression of the carbohydrate ABH and Lewis antigens are often used as markers for the diagnosis of cancer, but while the distribution of these histo-blood group antigens is relatively well-described in tissues and organs from young and middle-aged humans little is known of their expression in old age. The objective for this study was to estimate if the Lewis A and X antigens together with their sialylated modifications, are expressed in sections of normal laryngeal tissue from old humans. Antibodies directed against the tumor markers Sialyl Lewis A and Sialyl Lewis X showed positive reaction in the surface epithelia from normal larynx autopsies obtained from people aged 77–90 years. The sialylated and non-sialylated Lewis A antigens were more frequently expressed in the pseudostratified epithelium than in squamous surface epithelium. Both the sialylated and the non-sialylated carbohydrates were stained in the submucosal glands in all the autopsies. In conclusion, visualization of Lewis tumor markers in the larynx should be interpreted with great care, as they may be present in normal laryngeal epithelial cells from old humans.