Aim Mucins comprise a family of high-molecular-weight glycoproteins. MUC4, a large transmembrane mucin, has recently emerged as a novel marker for diagnosis, prognosis and therapy in several malignancies. However, its role in skin pathologies remains unknown. The aim of this study was to analyse the expression of MUC4 in cutaneous pathologies by immunohistochemistry for potential diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic applications.
Methods A total of 330 tissue spots representing the normal skin, and benign and malignant cutaneous diseases, were analysed after staining with the monoclonal antibody to human MUC4 (clone 8G7).
Results While the normal epidermis showed a negative to weak-positive expression of MUC4, its expression was significantly upregulated in squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) where the intensity of staining correlated negatively with tumour grade and positively with age. A moderately strong MUC4 expression was also noted in 2/20 cancer adjacent normal skin and 2/21 chronically inflamed skin tissues, while 10/19 cases of vulval condyloma acuminate, 3/12 of vulval hyperplasia and 2 cases of verruca vulgaris also showed strong MUC4 positivity. Malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous cysts were negative.
Conclusion The results indicate that MUC4 expression is aberrantly upregulated in cutaneous SCCs, vulval condylomas and verruca vulgaris. Further, it appears that MUC4 expression in the skin may be modulated by chronic inflammation and the presence of an adjacent cutaneous malignancy in certain cases. These observations suggest a novel role for MUC4 mucin in the pathogenesis of cutaneous SCC and a possible application as a diagnostic and/or prognostic marker in cutaneous pathologies.
- cutaneous diseases
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Funding The authors are supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (RO1 CA78590, UO1 CA111294, RO1 CA131944, RO1 CA 133774 and P50 CA127297).
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.