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Br J Cancer. 2001 Jan;84(2):209-17.

beta- Catenin mutations and aberrant nuclear expression during endometrial tumorigenesis.

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Department of Pathology, Kitasato University School of Medicine, 1-15-1 Kitasato, Sagamihara, Kanagawa, 228-8555, Japan.


To clarify the possible role of aberrant beta-catenin expression during endometrial tumorigenesis, a total of 199 cases of endometrial carcinomas (endometrioid type), as well as 37 cases of simple/complex and 32 of atypical hyperplasias, was consecutively investigated for immunohistochemistry, along with 141 normal endometrial samples distant from carcinomas. Of 199 carcinoma cases, 73 tumours as well as 44 normal samples were also analysed using a combination of RT-PCR and Southern blot hybridization, Western blot, and mutation gene assays. Cell membrane beta-catenin immunoreactivity showed a stepwise decrease from normal, through atypical hyperplasia, to grade 3 carcinomas. In contrast, the nuclear accumulation in atypical hyperplasias and grade 1 or 2 tumours was higher than in simple/complex hyperplasias. Mutations in exon 3 of the beta-catenin gene involving codons 33, 34, 37, 41, and 45 were observed in 16 (22.9%) of 70 endometrial carcinomas, as well as 3 (12.5%) of 24 atypical hyperplasias, the results being significantly related to low membrane and high nuclear immunoreactivity but not relative mRNA expression levels, suggesting that the gene mutations may be closely associated with changes in subcellular distribution. In addition to significant association between beta-catenin mutation and low grade histological malignancy (P = 0.048), the mutations were detected in none of 15 and 13 (26%) of 50 tumours with or without lymph node metastasis, the difference being significant (P = 0.027). These findings suggest that beta-catenin abnormalities may play an important role in a relatively early event during the endometrial hyperplasia-carcinoma sequence.

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