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Histopathology. 1997 Jun;30(6):549-55.

Expression of p53, mdm2, p21/waf1 and bcl-2 proteins in thymomas.

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Department of Pathology, University Hospital of Heraklion, Greece.


We have investigated the immunohistochemical expression of p53, mdm2, p21/waf1 and bcl-2 proteins in 31 thymic epithelial tumours comprising five medullary thymomas (MDT), four mixed thymomas (MT), 12 cortical thymomas (CT), eight predominately cortical thymomas (PCT) and two well-differentiated thymic carcinomas (WDTC). We have found p53, mdm2, p21 and bcl-2 protein expression in 25/31, 8/31, 5/31 and 10/31 thymic epithelial tumours, respectively. Coexpression of p53 and mdm2 proteins was found in eight cases (three CT, four PCT and one WDTC). Five of them were also p21 positive and three p21 negative. Discordant p53+/mdm2-/p21- protein expression was found in 19 cases (three MDT, three MT, nine CT, three PCT and one WDTC). Mdm2 and p21 proteins were not expressed in the absence of p53 protein. Coexpression of bcl-2 and p53 proteins was found in seven cases (three MDT, three MT and one WDTC). Eighteen cases were p53+/bcl-2- (10 CT, seven PCT and one WDTC) and three cases (two MDT and one MT) were bcl-2+/p53-. Our findings indicate that in thymomas, p53 expression is more frequently associated with cortical histotypes while bcl-2 expression is strongly associated with medullary and mixed histotypes. In addition, there is an inverse correlation between p53 and bcl-2 protein expression in thymomas. Coexpression of p53/mdm2/p21 proteins may reflect thymomas with wild-type (wt), p53 gene since mdm2 and p21 proteins are inducible by wt p53 gene. However, in view of previous findings that p53 mutation is an early event in thymomas, the possibility of p53 gene mutation with p53-independent mdm2 and p21 expression should be considered in these cases. Discordant p53+/mdm2-/p21- protein expression may represent thymomas with p53 gene mutations unable to activate expression of mdm2 and p21 proteins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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