Decreased Programmed Cell Death in the Uterine Cervix Associated with High Risk Human Papillomavirus Infection

Prapid NAIR1, Krishnan M NAIR2, Puthuveetil G JAYAPRAKASH2, Radhakrishna M PILLAI1

1Division of Laboratory Medicine, Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, India
2Division of Radiation Oncology, Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram,, India


The relationship between apoptosis, apoptosis regulatory proteins, cell proliferation and human papillomavirus infection during various phases of tumor progression in the uterine cervix was studied. Apoptosis was defined by morphological criteria and the TUNEL assay. Expression of p53, bcl-2, bax, cyclin D1, Ki 67 and E6 protein was evaluated by immunocytochemistry. Presence of mutant p53 was detected using a mutant specific ELISA. Type of HPV infection was determined by PCR using type specific primers. Apoptosis showed significant negative correlation with increasing histological abnormality (p=0.0005). Higher tumor cell proliferation was associated with increasing histological abnormality (p=0.001 for Ki 67 and cyclin D1). There was significant correlation between histological grade and immunoreactivity of p53 (p=0.0001 ) and bcl-2 (p=0.0002). However, mutant p53 was expressed by only 12 of the 230 samples. Expression of bax and the bax/bcl-2 ratio showed an inverse correlation to histological grade (p=0.0003 and 0.0001, respectively). There was also an inverse correlation between extent of apoptosis and immunoreactivity of p53 (p=0.0001) and bcl-2 (p=0.0001). A significant positive correlation between expression of the bax protein and apoptosis was evident (p=0.0001). HPV infection significantly correlated to the extent of histological abnormality (p=0.0001). High risk HPV-E6 protein also showed this significant correlation (p=0.0002). There was an inverse correlation between apoptosis and HPV infection (p=0.0002). High risk HPV infection was associated with decreased apoptosis and also increased human cell proliferation. Lowest levels of bax/bcl-2 ratio was also associated with HPV 16 and 18 infection (p=0.0001). Modulation of apoptosis and apoptotic regulatory proteins by high risk HPV infection may be an important factor in the development of cervical cancer. Pathology & Oncology Research, Vol 5, Nr 2, 95-103, 1999

Key words: HPV; apoptosis; cervical cancer

Received: Nov 20, 1998; accepted: Mar 5, 1999
Correspondence: Radhakrishna M PILLAI, Division of Laboratory Medicine, Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram 695011, India; Tel: +91 0471 437230, Fax: +91 0471 447454; E-mail:

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