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Analytical Cellular Pathology
Volume 21 (2000), Issue 1, Pages 35-40

Analysis of Erythrocyte Glycophorin-A Variants by Flow Cytometry in Lung Disease Patients Detects the Effect of Tobacco Smoke

Monica Neri,1 Elio Geido,2 Rosangela Filiberti,1 Roberto Orecchia,2 Angela Di Vinci,2 Mara Cafferata,3 Elisabetta Tassara,4 Riccardo Puntoni,1 and Walter Giaretti2

1Service of Environmental Epidemiology and Biostatistics, National Cancer Research Institute, Genoa, Italy
2Laboratory of Biophysics‐Cytometry, Department of Preventive Oncology, National Cancer Research Institute, Genoa, Italy
3Service of Medical Oncology, National Cancer Research Institute, Genoa, Italy
4Service of Thoracic Endoscopy, National Cancer Research Institute, Genoa, Italy

Received 21 September 2000; Accepted 10 November 2000

Copyright © 2000 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The glycophoryn A (GPA) assay evaluates somatic in vivo mutations. It is considered a cumulative biodosimeter for genotoxic exposures and is under evaluation in cancer risk assessment.

GPA, a polymorphic membrane protein of the erythrocytes, determines the MN blood groups. The N0 and NN variant frequencies (VF) may be detected in MN subjects (about 50% of the population) by flow cytometry using two differently labelled antibodies.

We explored if GPA N0 and NN VF might be relevant to the assessment of individual lung cancer risk and susceptibility, in a small population with a high prevalence of heavy tobacco smokers: 8 lung cancer patients and 16 subjects with non‐malignant lung diseases associated with increased risk of lung cancer.

There was a wide interindividual variability and complete overlap between non‐neoplastic and neoplastic patients. A significant positive correlation was seen with smoking duration in N0 VF (p=0.04, age‐adjusted). Current smokers (n=12) displayed higher N0 values than never (n=1) or ex‐smokers (n=11), 36.3±18.2 and 21.0±13.2, respectively (p < 0:01). No association was shown with occupational exposure.

The present exploratory study suggests that assessment of individual lung cancer risk and susceptibility by the GPA assay does not seem to be feasible. The assay appears to provide a biomarker of longterm exposure to tobacco smoke.