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Aberrant upregulation of MUC4 mucin expression in cutaneous condyloma acuminatum and squamous cell carcinoma suggests a potential role in the diagnosis and therapy of skin diseases
  1. Subhankar Chakraborty1,
  2. Benjamin J Swanson3,
  3. Neelima Bonthu1,
  4. Surinder K Batra1,2,3
  1. 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
  2. 2Department of Pathology and Microbiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
  3. 3Eppley Institute for Cancer Research, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
  1. Correspondence to Surinder K Batra, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 985870 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-5870, USA; sbatra{at}


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.

  • Cancer
  • cutaneous diseases
  • diagnosis
  • immunohistochemistry
  • mucin
  • papillomaviruses

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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.