Differential expression of retinoic acid receptor beta (RARbeta) and the AP-1 transcription factor in normal, premalignant and malignant human laryngeal tissues

Published on Thursday, 17 May 2018


The anticancer effects of retinoids are mainly mediated by their nuclear receptors.

Recent studies have demonstrated that retinoic acid receptor beta (RARbeta) plays a pivotal role from the early stages of laryngeal carcinogenesis; however, the exact mechanism of this detrimental effect has not yet been elucidated. One of the best-documented actions of retinoid receptors is the transrepression of activator protein-1 (AP-1) transcription factor activity, although this complex interplay has not been clarified.

The present report is the first systematic morphological evaluation of the cross-talk of RARbeta and AP-1 transcription factor in a large series of human laryngeal tissues containing normal epithelium, premalignant lesions (hyperplasia and/or dysplasia) and squamous cell carcinoma.

Immunohistochemical methodology was performed on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded sections by using a panel of monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies against RARbeta and the AP-1 components c-Jun, p-c-Jun (phosphorylated, active c-Jun) and c-Fos proteins.

Their expression was screened and compared in 154 patients with various laryngeal histological entities. Nuclear expression of RARbeta, c-Jun, p-c-Jun and c-Fos was detected in 81 (89.2%), 48 (52.8%), 66 (72.6%) and 73 (80.3%), respectively, out of 91 specimens with normal-appearing laryngeal epithelium; in 86 (87.8%), 94 (95.9%), 94 (95.9%) and 94 (95.9%), respectively, out of 98 specimens with hyperplastic laryngeal epithelium; in 58 (56.8%), 92 (90.2%), 96 (94.1%) and 96 (94.1%), respectively, out of 102 specimens with dysplastic laryngeal epithelium; in 10 (22.3%), 41 (91.2%), 44 (97.8%) and 41 (91.2%), respectively, out of 45 specimens with well-differentiated squamous cell carcinoma; in 13 (30.3%), 37 (86%), 39 (90.7%) and 41 (95.3%), respectively, out of 43 specimens with moderately-differentiated squamous cell carcinoma; and in 8 (66.7%), 10 (83.3%), 12 (100%) and 12 (100%), respectively, out of 12 specimens with poorly-differentiated squamous cell laryngeal carcinoma.

Statistical analysis and correlation of the intensity of nuclear immunostaining of the studied proteins among the various histological entities revealed statistically significant results.

The progressive upregulation of the AP-1 transcription factor constituents and downregulation of the RARbeta protein detected from the onset of laryngeal tumorigenesis suggests an important role for the immediate-early AP-1/RARbeta on/off "switch" in the process of laryngeal carcinogenesis.


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