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Membrane complement inhibitors (CD46, CD55 and CD59) are upregulated in some human cancers indicating that they play a role in immune evasion. We investigated complement inhibitor expression in bladder cancer and examined the hypothesis that selective pressure of an antibody response (anti-MUC1) results in the upregulated expression of complement inhibitors on tumor cells. Paired samples of tumor and normal tissue from 22 bladder cancer patients were analyzed for expression of MUC1, CD46, CD55 and CD59, and matched serum samples analyzed for anti-MUC1 IgM and IgG levels. Relationships between anti-MUC1 antibody levels and complement inhibitor expression were investigated. MUC1 mRNA was upregulated in 86% of tumor samples. CD46 was upregulated in 77%, CD55 in 55% and CD59 in 59% of tumors. Low titer anti-MUC1 IgM was detected in normal human sera, but was elevated in 41% of the bladder cancer patients. Anti-MUC1 IgG was virtually absent from normal sera, but present in 32% of the cancer patients. There was a direct relationship between anti-MUC1 antibody titer and expression level of complement inhibitors. Analysis of the correlation of each antibody with the expression of each complement inhibitor by Spearman's rank test revealed a strong correlation between both anti-MUC1 IgM and IgG levels and increased expression of CD46 and CD55, and combined anti-MUC1 IgM/IgG levels correlated with increased expression of all 3 complement inhibitors. In conclusion, the data demonstrate upregulated complement inhibitor expression and the presence of an anti-MUC1 antibody response in bladder cancer patients and support the hypothesis of antibody-mediated immune selection. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.