Aims: To investigate episialin/MUC1 expression in the normal, hyperplastic and neoplastic endometrium, and relate patterns of tumour MUC1 reactivity with histopathological characteristics, oestrogen and progesterone receptor (ER and PR) status, bcl-2 and p53 oncoproteins and with clinical behaviour.
Methods and results: We studied 42 normally cycling endometria, 45 endometrial hyperplasias of various forms, and 111 endometrial carcinomas of endometrioid and non-endometrioid cell types with specific monoclonal antibodies employing standard immunohistochemical techniques. The follow-up period ranged from 34 to 182 months with a median of 86 months. Epithelial mucin episialin/MUC1 was consistently expressed in the normal endometrium, following a cyclical pattern: "apical membrane staining" in early and mid-proliferative endometrium; "purely cytoplasmic staining" in late proliferative endometrium; and "cytoplasmic staining with intraluminal secretions" in secretory endometrium. Immunostaining patterns in simple and complex hyperplasia were similar to late proliferative endometrium, while atypical hyperplasias and endometrial carcinomas either simulated patterns of proliferative endometrium or lacked MUC1 reactivity. Membranous MUC1 positivity was statistically more frequent in endometrioid carcinomas compared with carcinomas of non-endometrioid type (P = 0.006). Cytoplasmic MUC1 positivity was significantly associated with poor prognosis, while MUC1-negative carcinomas were associated with PR expression and an improved survival (P=0.04). There was no association of MUC1 patterns with bcl-2 and p53 immunoreactivity or with other histopathological variables.
Conclusions: Episialin/MUC1 is an integral component of the normal premenopausal endometrium and is probably hormonally regulated. It is frequently expressed in endometrial hyperplasias and carcinomas. The loss of MUC1 expression from endometrial carcinomas is associated with a favourable prognosis.