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Hum Pathol. 2003 Dec;34(12):1283-9.

Major histocompatibility complex status in breast carcinogenesis and relationship to apoptosis.

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Department of Biochemistry, Hospital Costa del Sol, Marbella, Spain.


Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules are of central importance in regulating the immune response against tumors. In this study we used immunohistochemistry to study human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I and II antigen expression in normal breast tissues and benign, preneoplastic, primary, and metastatic breast lesions using antibodies against beta-2-microglobulin (beta2-m), heavy-chain, and HLA-DR antigens. Whereas all normal tissues and benign lesions were positive for beta2-m and HLA-A, -B, and -C antigens, total loss of HLA class I antigens was found in 37% (11 of 30) of in situ carcinomas, in 43% (56 of 131) of the primary tumors, and in 70% (31 of 45) of the lymph node metastases. HLA-DR was also underexpressed in breast cancer cells; thus 20% (6 of 30) of in situ carcinomas, 15% of invasive carcinomas (20 of 131), and only 1 metastatic case were positive for this antigen. Both HLA class I and II antigen expression were more frequently down-regulated in metastatic lesions than in primary breast lesions (P <0.05), and a tendency toward a simultaneous defective expression of HLA class I and II antigens was observed in primary carcinomas (P = 0.07). However, no correlation was found between the expression of any of the aforementioned molecules and pathological parameters or survival. Interestingly, HLA class I expression was expressed more frequently in tissues with high apoptotic activity and was significantly associated with the expression of the proapoptotic bax gene (P = 0.02), and was inversely associated with expression of the antiapoptotic bcl-2 gene (P = 0.03). We conclude that alterations in HLA class I and II antigen expression are early events in breast carcinogenesis and play significant roles in metastatic progression. In addition, their expression is correlated with apoptosis-regulating proteins, which may influence the cytotoxicity of T cells against HLA class I-specific tumor antigens.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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