Background: Maspin is a tumor suppressor gene whose expression is altered in neoplasia and malignancies of many tissues. In the human placenta, the maspin gene is expressed in trophoblastic cells and might act as an inhibitory regulator of trophoblastic invasion. Hence, in gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD), where there is increased propensity for invasion in the trophoblastic tissue, we hypothesized that maspin expression would be decreased. The present study aimed at investigating the expression of maspin in GTD and its prognostic significance.
Methods: Using immunohistochemical staining, we firstly studied the expression of maspin in hydatidiform moles, with gestational age-matched normal first trimester placenta used as control. A total of 38 cases of hydatidiform moles were studied, including 20 complete moles (CM) and 18 partial moles (PM). Among them, 10 cases of the CM group and 8 cases of the PM group subsequently developed gestational trophoblastic neoplasia (GTN). Immunostaining was also performed on tissue from 4 cases of choriocarcinoma and 5 cases of placental site trophoblastic tumor. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was further performed on RNA extracted from 10 hydatidiform moles (5 with GTN and 5 without) and 6 normal first-trimester placentae.
Results: In all tissue sections, nuclear expression of immunostaining signal was demonstrated, mainly in the cytotrophoblasts. The percentage of trophoblastic nuclei stained in both complete and partial moles was significantly lower than that in normal first-trimester placenta (P < 0.001). However, there was no significant difference in immunostaining between complete and partial moles (P > 0.05). There was also significantly lower expression of maspin in those cases subsequently developing GTN than those which did not (P = 0.01). Immunostaining on choriocarcinoma and placental site trophoblastic tumor showed reduced expression of maspin in all the tumor cells. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction revealed that the expression of maspin was consistently down-regulated in all the hydatidiform mole samples.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that there is down-regulated expression of maspin in gestational trophoblastic diseases, and the down-regulation is more prominent in cases developing gestational trophoblastic neoplasia. This may play a role with prognostic significance in the pathogenesis and malignant transformation of hydatidiform moles.