BRCA1 is a putative tumour suppressor gene responsible for a hereditary ovarian cancer syndrome. To clarify the possible involvement of BRCA1 in the development of sporadic ovarian neoplasms, this study analysed the immunohistochemical expression of BRCA1 protein in normal ovarian surface epithelium and 119 epithelial ovarian tumours (19 benign, 24 borderline, and 76 malignant tumours). Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) of BRCA1 was examined using three microsatellite markers to analyse the relationship between BRCA1 expression and alterations of the BRCA1 gene. Methylation of the BRCA1 promoter was also analysed by methylation-specific PCR. In ovarian carcinomas showing heterogeneous expression of BRCA1 protein in the same tumour, LOH and methylation status were analysed using microdissection techniques. Finally, the relationship of BRCA1 expression or its genetic alteration to clinicopathological parameters and patient survival was analysed. Ovarian surface epithelial cells expressed BRCA1 protein. Decreased expression of BRCA1 was found in 16% of benign tumours, 38% of borderline tumours, and 72% of carcinomas. LOH of BRCA1 was demonstrated in no benign tumours, 15% of borderline tumours, and 66% of carcinomas. Methylation of BRCA1 was not detected in benign or borderline tumours, but was present in 31% of carcinomas. Reduced expression of BRCA1 correlated with the presence of gene methylation. The frequency of BRCA1 methylation and LOH was higher in serous carcinomas than in other types. In one of the three serous carcinomas that showed heterogeneous expression of BRCA1, BRCA1-positive borderline-like tumour cells were LOH-positive and methylation-negative, whereas adjacent BRCA1-negative carcinoma cells were LOH-positive and methylation-positive. The prognosis of carcinoma patients did not correlate with BRCA1 expression or genetic status. These findings suggest that reduced expression of BRCA1 protein along with genetic and epigenetic changes of the BRCA1 gene play an important role in the development of sporadic ovarian carcinomas, particularly those of serous histology.
Copyright 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.