The mitotic spindle assembly checkpoint modulates the timing of anaphase initiation in response to improper alignment of chromosomes at the metaphase plate. The BUB gene family encodes proteins which are part of a large multi-protein kinetochore complex and which are believed to be key components of the checkpoint regulatory pathway. Failure of this surveillance system can lead to genomic instability and could be responsible for the increased incidence of aneuploidy in gastric cancer. Since mutations of BUB genes have not been identified in gastric cancer to date, altered BUB expression levels may significantly impair mitotic checkpoint function. To explore this possibility, the expression levels of BUB1, BUBR1, and BUB3 were determined in 43 gastric carcinomas and corresponding normal gastric mucosa by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Gene expression levels were compared with histopathological parameters and DNA ploidy, as well as with proliferative activity, measured by Ki-67 mRNA expression. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the expression levels of mitotic checkpoint genes together with DNA ploidy in gastric cancer. BUB1 was overexpressed in 84%, BUBR1 in 68%, and BUB3 in 79% of gastric cancers. This study also revealed that all three genes were simultaneously overexpressed in 61% of the tumours and that there was a statistically significant positive correlation between overexpression of BUB1, BUBR1 or BUB3 and Ki-67 expression (p < 0.001). Eighty-one per cent of the tumours were classified as aneuploid. However, no correlation was found between ploidy and BUB transcript expression levels. These results suggest that inactivation of the mitotic checkpoint genes BUB1, BUBR1, and BUB3 by epigenetic silencing does not seem to play a role in gastric carcinogenesis. The strong correlation of BUB expression level and tumour cell proliferation suggests that BUB overexpression is a proliferation-dependent phenomenon in gastric cancer. However, overexpression due to lack of normal BUB protein function or due to a yet unknown additional BUB function has to be considered.
Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.