Bcl-2 and p53 gene products have been both linked to cell death by apoptosis. In the present study, we examined the relationship of Bcl-2 and p53 protein expression, p53 mutation and apoptosis in normal human ovaries and different types of human ovarian epithelial tumors by immunohistochemical localization, in situ terminal transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling and polymerase chain reaction-single strand conformation polymorphism. It was found that Bcl-2 expressed strongly in the surface epithelium of normal ovaries and benign and borderline ovarian tumors but weakly in the malignant tumors. On the contrary, strong protein expression of p53 was found in 54% (25/46) of the malignant epithelial tumors examined but similar expression of p53 was not observed in borderline and benign tumors and normal ovarian surface epithelium. A significant inverse correlation between Bcl-2 and p53 expression was found in the malignant ovarian tumors examined. p53 gene mutation at exons 5-11 was however not a pre-requisite for p53 expression in both borderline and malignant tumors. Apoptotic activities, as reflected by apoptotic indices, were low in normal ovarian surface epithelium and benign tumors but were increased in borderline and malignant tumors, with the highest average apoptotic index found in grade III malignant tumors. Statistical analyses showed a positive correlation between apoptosis and p53 expression, but similar correlation was not found between apoptosis and Bcl-2 expression. Our results also indicate that although expression of Bcl-2 is important during ovarian carcinogenesis, the Bcl-2 protein may have other roles to play apart from being a modulator of apoptosis in human ovarian epithelial cancers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine