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Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2004 Aug;43(2):115-9.

p53 protein expression does not correlate with EBV status in childhood B non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

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Laboratório de Hematologia Celular e Molecular, Hospital do Câncer, Instituto Nacional de Câncer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.



The p53 tumor suppressor gene is affected in a wide range of human cancers, including hematological malignancies. This gene encodes a nuclear phosphoprotein p53, which plays a key role in cell cycle arrest, induction of apoptosis, and DNA repair. Mutations of the p53 gene often lead to the accumulation of the mutated protein in the nucleus of neoplastic cells. However, p53 protein expression is frequently detected in non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL) without any correlation with p53 mutations. This discordance suggests the existence of other mechanisms to stabilize the p53 protein, including binding of p53 protein to viral proteins. p53 protein has been shown to bind to proteins encoded by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).


The aim of this study was to analyze p53 expression in childhood B-NHL and correlate its expression in the absence of p53 mutations with EBV in order to investigate a possible involvement of EBV in p53 stabilization.


Tumor specimens from 35 children with B-NHL were analyzed by immunohistochemistry (IHC) with the DO7 monoclonal antibody, which recognizes an epitope at N-terminus of p53 protein and reacts with wild type and mutant proteins. To detect p53 mutations, PCR/SSCP and sequencing were performed. EBV status was determinated using a specific PCR technique.


The overall frequency of p53 immunostaining positivity was 45% (16 of 35). p53 mutations were detected in nine patients (25.6%). p53 immunoreactivity was observed in all cases with mutations. Additionally, we identified 7 p53 positive cases among 26 tumors without mutations. EBV DNA was detected in 24 of 35 cases. Four patients with p53 expression dissociated from mutation were EBV positive. No statistically significant association was found between p53 expression and EBV cases despite the exclusion of those patients in which p53 expression was related with p53 mutations (P = 0.28 and 0.54, respectively).


Our results suggested that in childhood B-NHL, the expression of p53 dissociated from mutations could not be related to EBV infection. Further studies with larger patient sets will be necessary to determinate if EBV-encoded protein may play a role for nuclear accumulation of p53 protein.

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