p63 is a p53-related DNA-binding protein that helps regulate differentiation and proliferation in epithelial progenitor cells. Its expression has never been evaluated in the human gastrointestinal tract. The aim of this study was to evaluate the expression of p63 in the esophagus and related metaplastic and neoplastic disorders to gain insight into the pathogenesis of these processes. Of particular interest was the expression of p63 in Barrett esophagus (BE) and in BE-associated multilayered epithelium. Multilayered epithelium has been postulated to represent an early precursor to the development of BE primarily because it shares morphologic and immunophenotypic features of both squamous and columnar epithelium, and has been shown prospectively to be highly associated with BE. Routinely processed mucosal biopsy or resection specimens that contained normal esophageal squamous epithelium (n = 20), squamous dysplasia (n = 4), squamous cell carcinoma (n = 7), BE (n = 10), BE-associated multilayered epithelium (n = 13), esophageal mucosal gland ducts (n = 10), BE-associated dysplasia (n = 12), and BE-associated adenocarcinoma (n = 7) were immunostained for p63 to determine the extent and location of staining. p63 staining was compared with the staining patterns observed for p53, Ki 67 (proliferation marker), and cytokeratins (CKs) 13 (squamous marker), 14 (basal squamous marker), 8/18 (columnar marker), and 19 (basal/columnar marker). Expression of p63 messenger RNA (mRNA) isoforms was also analyzed by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction of freshly isolated tissues. In the normal esophagus, p63 was expressed in the basal and suprabasal layers of the squamous epithelium and in basal cells that line the mucosal gland ducts but was negative in all other epithelia of the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach, small intestine, and colon. Similarly, p63 was not expressed in BE, but it, was present in the basal layer of multilayered epithelium in 9 of 13 cases (69%). p63-positive cells in multilayered epithelium and in the mucosal gland duct epithelium were positive for CK8/18 (100%) and CK13 (67% and 30%, respectively) and negative for CK14 (0%), in contrast to p63-positive cells in squamous epithelium, which were positive for CK14 and CK13 (100%) but negative for CK8/18. In neoplastic tissues, p63 was diffusely expressed in all cases of esophageal squamous cell dysplasia and carcinoma but was negative in all cases of esophageal and colorectal adenocarcinoma. The DeltaN isoform of p63 mRNA predominated in all benign and neoplastic squamous tissues examined. p63 may represent a marker of 2 distinct epithelial progenitor cells (basal squamous epithelium and gland duct epithelium) in the esophagus. P63 is upregulated in squamous neoplastic conditions and in this manner may play a role in squamous carcinogenesis. These data also indicate that multilayered epithelium is phenotypically similar to, and may share a lineage relationship with, mucosal gland duct epithelium.
Copyright 2001 by W.B. Saunders Company