Association between Neu5Gc carbohydrate and serum antibodies against it provides the molecular link to cancer: French NutriNet-Santé study

Salam Bashir, Leopold K. Fezeu, Shani Leviatan Ben-Arye, Sharon Yehuda, Eliran Moshe Reuven, Fabien Szabo De Edelenyi, Imen Fellah-Hebia, Thierry Le Tourneau, Berthe Marie Imbert-Marcille, Emmanuel B. Drouet, Mathilde Touvier, Jean Christian Roussel, Hai Yu, Xi Chen, Serge Hercberg, Emanuele Cozzi, Jean Paul Soulillou, Pilar Galan, Vered Padler-Karavani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: High consumption of red and processed meat is commonly associated with increased cancer risk, particularly colorectal cancer. Antibodies against the red meat-derived carbohydrate N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) exacerbate cancer in "human-like"mice. Human anti-Neu5Gc IgG and red meat are both independently proposed to increase cancer risk, yet how diet affects these antibodies is largely unknown. Methods: We used world global data to demonstrate that colorectal cancer incidence and mortality are associated with increased national meat consumption. In a well-defined large cohort, we used glycomics to measure daily Neu5Gc intake from red meat and dairy, and investigated serum as well as affinity-purified anti-Neu5Gc antibodies. Based on 24-h dietary records, daily Neu5Gc intake was calculated for 19,621 subjects aged ≥ 18 years of the NutriNet-Santé study. Serum and affinity-purified anti-Neu5Gc antibodies were evaluated by ELISA and glycan microarrays in representative 120 individuals, each with at least eighteen 24-h dietary records (aged 45-60, Q1-Q4; aged > 60, Q1 and Q4; 10 men/women per quartile). Results: We found that high-Neu5Gc diet, gender, and age affect the specificity, levels, and repertoires of anti-Neu5Gc IgG immune responses, but not their affinity. Men consumed more Neu5Gc than women, mostly from red meat (p = 0.0015), and exhibited higher overall serum anti-Neu5Gc IgG levels by ELISA (3.94 ng/μl versus 2.22 ng/μl, respectively; p = 0.039). Detailed glycan microarray analysis against 56 different glycans revealed high Neu5Gc-specificity with increased anti-Neu5Gc IgG and altered repertoires, associated with higher consumption of Neu5Gc from red meat and cow dairy. Affinity purification of serum anti-Neu5Gc antibodies revealed increased levels and biased array repertoire patterns, without an increase in antibody affinity, in individuals consuming higher Neu5Gc levels. Furthermore, in a high-meat diet, antibody diversity patterns on glycan microarrays shifted towards Neu5Gcα3-linked glycans, increasing the α3/α6-glycans ratio score. Conclusions: We found a clear link between the levels and repertoire of serum anti-Neu5Gc IgG and Neu5Gc intake from red meat and dairy. These precise rational methodologies allowed to develop a Gcemic index to simplify the assessment of Neu5Gc in foods that could potentially be adapted for dietary recommendations to reduce cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article number262
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 23 Sep 2020


  • Antibodies
  • Cancer
  • Red meat
  • Sialic acid

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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