The Lewis blood group and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) related antigens have adhesive functions in human tissues, with roles in embryonic sorting and migration of cells (organogenesis), differentiation and protection of normal mucosal tissues, migration of neutrophils, bacterial binding, and tumour differentiation and dissemination. In the key areas of mucosal protection, neutrophil binding, and tumour metastasis, they are often coexpressed on the outer cell membrane, with Lewis blood group antigens forming the terminal carbohydrate chains on a CEA related glycoprotein backbone. The central role of these antigens in the mechanism of neutrophil binding to endothelium in inflammation highlights a fascinating paradigm for tumour cell dissemination and metastasis, and expression is linked to disease prognosis. This review outlines the structure, function, and comparative roles of these antigens in human tissues.
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