LKB1 protein expression in human breast cancer

Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol. 2006 Jun;14(2):146-53. doi: 10.1097/01.pai.0000176157.07908.20.


Peutz-Jeghers syndrome is caused by germline mutations in the LKB1/STK11 gene. Peutz-Jeghers syndrome is associated with an increased risk of developing intestinal and extraintestinal cancers, including pancreatic, lung, and breast carcinomas. LKB1 gene inactivation has recently been demonstrated in a subset of sporadic pancreatic and lung carcinomas. The role of the LKB1 gene in sporadic breast carcinomas remains unclear, though recent studies suggest inactivation only within papillary carcinomas. Using a commercially available polyclonal antibody that has been shown to mirror LKB1 genetic status in gastrointestinal and pulmonary carcinomas, the authors performed IHC on a large series of breast cancers using tissue microarrays (TMAs). All abnormal TMA results were confirmed using whole sections; specifically, whole sections from the donor blocks of lesions demonstrating diminished or absent LKB1 protein expression on TMA were evaluated to compare labeling of the lesion with that of the surrounding normal breast. In all cases, normal breast epithelium demonstrated strong cytoplasmic labeling (providing an internal positive control), whereas the stroma was nonreactive. Luminal cells typically labeled more strongly than myoepithelial cells. Among 70 invasive ductal carcinomas, 3 (4.3%) showed complete loss of LKB1 labeling, whereas 6 others (8.6%) showed diminished labeling. Of the eight intraductal carcinoma lesions adjacent to these invasive carcinomas, one (12.5%) showed complete loss of LKB1 labeling and one other (12.5%) showed diminished labeling; these results were identical to those of the adjacent invasive carcinomas. One of 10 (10%) hematogenous metastases of mammary carcinoma showed loss of LKB1 labeling. Nine of the 10 invasive carcinomas and both of the ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) cases showing loss of or diminished LKB1 expression were of high grade. In contrast, all 13 pure nonpapillary DCIS lesions, all 5 invasive lobular carcinomas and 3 accompanying lobular carcinoma in situ lesions, all 7 papillary DCIS lesions, and all 3 papillomas evaluated showed intact LKB1 labeling. Therefore, although frequent methylation of the LKB1 gene has been reported in papillary carcinomas of the breast, the authors did not find loss of protein expression in these lesions. Instead, it was found that loss of LKB1 protein expression occurs in a subset of high-grade in situ and invasive mammary carcinomas. The authors found LKB1 gene methylation in several of these invasive carcinomas. Given recent Western blot results indicating that diminished LKB1 expression in breast carcinomas correlates with shorter relapse-free survival, LKB1 IHC merits evaluation as a potential prognostic marker for breast carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / classification
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Mammary Glands, Human / metabolism
  • Mammary Glands, Human / pathology
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Prognosis
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • STK11 protein, human
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases