The PCPH proto-oncogene was identified by its frequent activation in Syrian hamster fetal cells exposed to 3-methylcholanthrene. We previously isolated human PCPH cDNA and studied its expression in normal human tissues. We report herein the pattern of PCPH expression in normal rat tissues. Each tissue expressed one major PCPH polypeptide that varied in molecular mass in different tissues. Normal mammary gland expressed a single PCPH polypeptide of 27 kDa. This PCPH form also was expressed in lactating mammary glands but at significantly greater levels. These results suggest the existence of tissue-specific regulatory mechanisms for PCPH expression that may be influenced by the differentiation stage. Our previous studies on the involvement of PCPH in human cancer showed that human breast tumor cell lines have frequent alterations in PCPH, including multiple PCPH polypeptide forms that are not expressed in normal cells. These cell lines also have frequent loss of a 27-kDa form identified as the only PCPH polypeptide expressed by normal human breast epithelial cells. In this study, we found that these same alterations occurred in vivo during mammary carcinogenesis in Sprague-Dawley rats treated with 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene, in both benign and malignant tumors, indicating that stable changes in PCPH expression took place early in the neoplastic process. Results showed that this experimental system is relevant to human breast carcinogenesis and provides an excellent model to study the molecular basis of the regulation of PCPH expression during normal differentiation and pathologic stages of neoplasia of the mammary gland and to analyze the role of PCPH in the carcinogenic process. Furthermore, the detection of atypical PCPH polypeptides in tumors suggests that PCPH immunodetection may be applied as a diagnostic tool for the early identification of neoplastic breast epithelial cells.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.