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Int J Cancer. 1998 Aug 21;79(4):424-8.

p21/WAF1, p53 and PCNA expression and p53 mutation status in hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Department of Pathology, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, China.


The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21/WAF1 is regulated by p5S3-dependent and p53-independent pathways. In addition, p21/WAF1 binds with proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and inhibits the action of PCNA. To investigate the possible role of p21/WAF1 in human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs), we examined the expression of p21/WAF1 and its relation with PCNA and p53 expression in 97 surgically resected HCCs by immunohistochemistry and with the mutation status of p53 in 26 HCCs. p53 mutation status was examined by direct DNA sequencing using 3 sets of primers covering exons 5-9. Six of the 26 tumors showed p53 point mutations and only 33% of these HCCs demonstrated p21/WAF1 expression. In contrast, 75% of HCCs without p53 mutations showed p21/WAF1 expression. Of all 97 HCCs, p21/WAF1 expression was significantly higher in the tumors than in corresponding non-tumorous liver. When the tumors were stratified into 2 groups by the median tumor p21/WAF1 score, those with higher expression were found to have a lower incidence of multiple tumor nodules (p = 0.008) and tumor microsatellite formation (p = 0.050). The tumor p21/WAF1 score was positively associated with tumor PCNA expression (p = 0.036) but not with tumor p53 expression. Thus, in HCC, expression of p21/WAF1 is in part dependent on p53 status, but a p53-independent pathway also plays a significant role in the regulation of p21/WAF1 expression. High p21/WAF1 expression is significantly associated with solitary tumor nodules and, to a lesser extent, tumor microsatellites but may not be enough to suppress tumor progression.

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