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Am J Pathol. 2001 Jun;158(6):2097-106.

Frequent loss of PTEN expression is linked to elevated phosphorylated Akt levels, but not associated with p27 and cyclin D1 expression, in primary epithelial ovarian carcinomas.

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Clinical Cancer Genetics and Human Cancer Genetics Programs, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


PTEN (MMAC1/TEP1), a tumor suppressor gene on chromosome subband 10q23.3, is variably mutated and/or deleted in a variety of human cancers. Germline mutations in PTEN, which encode a dual-specificity phosphatase, have been implicated in at least two hamartoma tumor syndromes that exhibit some clinical overlap, Cowden syndrome and Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome. Among several series of ovarian cancers, the frequency of loss of heterozygosity (LOH) of markers flanking and within PTEN, is approximately 30 to 50%, and the somatic intragenic PTEN mutation frequency is <10%. In this study, we screened primary adenocarcinomas of the ovary for LOH of polymorphic markers within and flanking the PTEN gene and for intragenic mutations of the PTEN gene and compared them to PTEN expression using immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, we sought to detect the expression of the presumed downstream targets of PTEN, such as P-Akt, p27, and cyclin D1 by immunohistochemistry. LOH at 10q23 was observed in 29 of 64 (45%) cases. Of the 117 samples, 6 somatic intragenic PTEN mutations, 1 germline mutation, and 1 novel polymorphism were found in 7 (6%) patients. Immunostaining of 49 ovarian cancer samples revealed that 13 (27%) were PTEN immunostain-negative, 25 (51%) had reduced staining, and the rest (22%) were PTEN expression-positive. Among the 44 informative tumors assessed for 10q23 LOH and PTEN immunostaining, there was an association between 10q23 LOH and decreased or absent staining (P = 0.0317). Of note, there were five (11%) tumors with neither mutation nor deletion that exhibited no PTEN expression and 10 (25%) others without mutation or deletion but had decreased PTEN expression. Among the 49 tumors available for immunohistochemistry, 28 (57%) showed P-Akt-positive staining, 24 (49%) had decreased p27 staining, and cyclin D1 was overexpressed in 35 (79%) cases. In general, P-Akt expression was inversely correlated with PTEN expression (P = 0.0083). These data suggest that disruption of PTEN by several mechanisms, allelic loss, intragenic mutation, or epigenetic silencing, all contribute to epithelial ovarian carcinogenesis, and that epigenetic silencing is a significant mechanism. The Akt pathway is prominently involved, but clearly not in all cases. Surprisingly, despite in vitro demonstration that p27 and cyclin D1 lies downstream of PTEN and Akt, there was no correlation between p27 and cyclin D1 expression and PTEN or P-Akt status. Thus, in vivo, although PTEN and Akt play a prominent role in ovarian carcinogenesis, p27 and cyclin D1 might not be the primary downstream targets. Alternatively, these observations could also suggest that pathways involving other than Akt, p27 and cyclin D1 that lie downstream of PTEN play roles in ovarian carcinogenesis.

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