The proto-oncogene Ets-1 is a transcription factor known to regulate the expression of a number of genes involved in extracellular matrix remodelling. It has been postulated to play a role in angiogenesis, cell migration, and regulation of tumour invasion. In betel and tobacco-related oral tumourigenesis, oral squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) having a poor prognosis often exhibit extensive local disease with spread into regional lymph nodes. At present, no tumour marker is available to predict the metastatic potential of oral carcinomas. To elucidate the involvement of Ets-1 in human oral tumourigenesis, 60 cases of oral SCC, 30 potentially malignant lesions, and 30 samples of normal oral mucosa were examined by immunohistochemistry and the findings corroborated with immunoblotting. The relationship of Ets-1 expression with the degree of differentiation, lymph node metastasis, and tumour stage was determined in oral SCCs. Ets-1 was not detected in the normal oral epithelium. Among the 60 cases of oral SCC, 35 cases (58 per cent) showed positive staining for the Ets-1 protein in tumour cells. In potentially malignant lesions, 14 of 30 cases (47 per cent) showed Ets-1 immunopositivity. Ets-1 expression correlated significantly with tumour stage ( p=0.01) and lymph node metastasis ( p=0.005). The presence of Ets-1 mRNA in oral SCCs was confirmed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). These findings suggest that overexpression of Ets-1 in potentially malignant lesions may be related to angiogenesis and its expression in oral SCCs may be one of the factors involved in tumour progression and lymph node metastasis.
Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.