AIM: To examine mesotheliomas for a possible relation between p53 immunostaining, p53 gene mutation, simian virus 40 (SV40), and asbestos exposure. METHODS: Paraffin sections from 11 mesotheliomas were used for p53 immunostaining and also to extract DNA. This was analysed for the presence of mutations in exons 5 to 8 of the p53 gene using a "cold" single strand conformational polymorphism method, together with sequencing. The DNA from the paraffin sections was also used to search for SV40 sequences. A 105 base pair segment at the 3' of the SV40 large T antigen (Tag) was targeted and any PCR amplification products were sequenced to confirm that they were of SV40 origin. EDAX electron microscopic differential mineral fibre counts were performed on dried lung tissue at a specialist referral centre. RESULTS: The fibre counts showed that seven of the mesotheliomas were associated with abnormally high asbestos exposure. Of these, two showed p53 immunostaining, none showed p53 gene mutation, and five showed SV40. Of the four other mesotheliomas, three showed p53 immunostaining, one showed a (silent) p53 mutation, and none showed SV40. The difference in frequency of SV40 detection was significant at the p < 0.05 level. CONCLUSIONS: Immunostaining for the p53 gene was relatively common but p53 mutations were rare in this series. SV40 virus sequence was detected in five of seven asbestos associated mesotheliomas but in none of the non-asbestos-associated mesotheliomas. This suggests there may be a synergistic interaction between asbestos and SV40 in human mesotheliomas. A study with a larger number of cases is needed to investigate these observations further.
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