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Am J Dermatopathol. 1995 Aug;17(4):335-8.

Quantitative image analysis of p53 protein accumulation in keratoacanthomas.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201, USA.


Keratoacanthomas are benign skin tumors that grow rapidly but eventually regress. They occur most commonly in sun-exposed skin and are histologically remarkably similar to squamous cancers. Since mutations of the p53 tumor suppressor gene are found frequently in cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas, we hypothesized that p53 mutations might contribute to the development of keratoacanthomas. To address this question, we did p53 immunohistochemistry with a polyclonal rabbit antiserum, CM-1, that binds both mutant and wild-type p53 proteins. Although wild-type p53 protein degrades rapidly and is generally undetected by immunohistochemistry, mutant p53 protein has a longer half-life and accumulates to detectable levels. We tested 26 formalin-fixed keratoacanthomas and 4 normal skin biopsies. Positive nuclear staining was detected in 20 of 26 (77%) of the keratoacanthomas and in none of the normal skin samples. Nuclear staining occurred in the outermost layer of the neoplasms and not in the keratin-filled central cores. Since nuclear p53 protein within a cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma usually correlates with missense mutation, these data suggest that p53 mutations contribute to the development of this benign neoplasm. The histologic similarity to squamous cell carcinoma and the accumulation of p53 protein suggest progression toward malignancy, but the invariable regression of these tumors suggests an arrest at some point in multistage carcinogenesis. If this model is correct, then genetic analysis of keratoacanthomas may provide clues to the later stages of squamous carcinogenesis including local invasion and metastasis.

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