Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) describes a set of highly related glycoproteins involved in cell adhesion. CEA is normally produced in gastrointestinal tissue during fetal development, but the production stops before birth. Therefore, CEA is usually present only at very low levels in the blood of healthy adults. However, the serum levels are raised in some types of cancer, which means that it can be used as a tumor marker in clinical tests.
CEA are glycosyl phosphatidyl inositol (GPI) cell surface anchored glycoproteins whose specialized sialofucosylated glycoforms serve as functional colon carcinoma L-selectin and E-selectin ligands, which may be critical to the metastatic dissemination of colon carcinoma cells. Immunologically they are characterized as members of the CD66 cluster of differentiation.
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