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Mol Med. 2001 Jun;7(6):418-29.

Low levels of p27 in association with deregulated p53-pRb protein status enhance tumor proliferation and chromosomal instability in non-small cell lung carcinomas.

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Department of Histology and Embryology, School of Medicine, University of Athens, Greece.



Down-regulation or overexpression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27 have been observed in a range of malignancies, including lung cancer. To further elucidate the role of the molecule in tumor growth regulation, we evaluated p27 expression in a series of non-small cell lung carcinomas (NSCLCs), and examined its relation with histology, kinetic parameters, ploidy, and overall survival. We extended our investigation into the association of p27 levels with the presence of Ki-ras mutations, as well as with the expression status of p53 and pRb in tumor cells.


p27, p53, and pRb status were immunohistochemically evaluated in a total of 69 NSCLCs. In situ assays were employed to assess the kinetic parameters (Ki-67 immunohistochemistry for proliferation index, Tdt-mediated dUTP nick end labeling assay for apoptotic index). The ploidy status of the tumors was assessed after staining nuclei with the Feulgen procedure, and the presence of Ki-ras mutations was examined by restriction fragment length polymorphisms. All possible associations were assessed with a series of statistical methods.


Immunoreactivity for p27 was observed in the entire series of specimens, with the mean percentage of positive cells being 33%. Adenocarcinomas (AdCs) exhibited higher p27 levels compared to squamous cell carcinomas (SqCCs) (p < 0.01). An inverse correlation was established between p27 expression and proliferation index (PI) (r = -0.834, p < 0.01) but not with apoptotic index (AI), whereas aneuploid tumors were characterized by lower p27 levels than diploid ones (p < 0.01). No difference in p27 immunostaining was observed with regard to the presence of Ki-ras mutations, whereas aberrant p53 and/or pRb expression patterns were associated with p27 underexpression (p < 0.01 for p53 status, p < 0.05 regarding pRb levels, and p < 0.01 for a combined deregulation of both proteins). Two or more alterations in the p27/p53/pRb protein network (i.e., p27 levels lower than the estimated mean value, overexpressed p53, and/or aberrant pRb) were associated with increased PI and aneuploidy (p < 0.001 and p < 0.01, respectively). A powerful trend was found between p27 expression and overall survival (p = 0.066).


Our findings confirm the heterogeneity between AdCs and SqCCs, and are suggestive of an increased proliferative activity in NSCLCs underexpressing p27. Furthermore, our analysis supports the concept of p27 forming a functionally compact network with p53 and pRb, which is actively involved in the regulation of cellular proliferation and chromosomal stability.

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