The p73 gene encodes a protein with substantial structural and functional similarities to the tumour-suppressor p53. Alternative splicing of p73 mRNA leads to expression of 6 known RNA species and proteins (alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta). We analysed the expression of these splice variants in ovarian adenocarcinoma by RT-PCR followed by detection of amplicons with the Southern technique and by immunoblot in 32 malignant and benign epithelial ovarian tumour specimens and 3 ovarian adenocarcinoma cell lines (A2780, 2008, OVCAR-3). p73alpha mRNA was expressed in all 17 ovarian cancer specimens, and 14 of 17 expressed at least 3 splice variants. In contrast, a different expression pattern was present in the ovarian adenomas: p73alpha was detected in 6 of 12 benign tumours, and only 1 adenoma expressed 3 splice variants. p73 protein was expressed in 9 of 16 ovarian cancer specimens, in all cell lines and in 1 of 3 borderline tumours. In contrast, none of 9 ovarian adenomas expressed detectable amounts of p73 protein. Expression of p73 mRNA and protein was not correlated with FIGO stage and histological grade, but we observed a significant correlation with over-expression of p53 protein. In summary, epithelial ovarian cancers express a more complex p73 isoform pattern and higher levels of p73 mRNA and protein than ovarian adenomas.
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