Human papillomaviruses, expression of p16, and early endocervical glandular neoplasia

Hum Pathol. 2002 Sep;33(9):899-904. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2002.127439.


Adenocarcinoma in situ (ACIS) is the precursor of cervical adenocarcinoma (ACs), and its distinction from benign but morphologically atypical glandular epithelium may be difficult. The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p16(ink4) is expressed in cervical squamous cell carcinomas, their precursors, and cervical ACs, and there is a strong relationship between p16 expression and the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV)-encoded E6/E7 transcription. This study analyzed 95 cases of benign and premalignant cervical glandular ACIS lesions for p16 antigen and the proliferative marker Ki-67; HPV E6/E7 transcripts were detected by RNA/RNA in situ hybridization. HPV 16 or 18 E6/E7 transcription and strong, diffuse p16 positivity were detected only in ACIS lesions. A high and moderate Ki-67 index was observed in 76% and 22% of ACIS, respectively. Thirty-three of 36 microglandular change, tubal, atypical tubal, and endometrial-type epithelia scored negative or weakly positive for p16. Distribution of staining in 3 strongly positive cases was heterogeneous. The diffuse distribution of p16 immunostaining in HPV16/18-positive glandular neoplasms supports a strong association with HPV infection and indicates that this biomarker may discriminate ACIS from its benign mimics. However, this distinction requires attention to staining distribution because p16 is focally expressed in tubal-endometrial epithelia and diffusely expressed in endometrium, indicating that in some cases the use of other biomarkers, such as Ki-67, may be necessary. Because endometrial glandular epithelia may also express p16, the diagnostic application of p16 immunohistochemistry to cytological samples is uncertain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Cervix Uteri / metabolism
  • Cervix Uteri / pathology
  • Cervix Uteri / virology
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16 / metabolism*
  • Exocrine Glands / metabolism
  • Exocrine Glands / pathology
  • Exocrine Glands / virology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / metabolism
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / metabolism*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / complications
  • Tumor Virus Infections / metabolism*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / metabolism*
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / virology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral