Objectives: Epithelial ovarian carcinomas develop from ovarian surface epithelia that undergo complex differentiation to form distinguishable phenotypes resembling those of the epithelia of the female urogenital regions. While previous studies have implicated regulatory developmental homeobox (HOX) genes in this process, other factors responsible for this differentiation are largely unknown. Aberrant transcriptional expression of PAX8 has been reported in epithelial ovarian cancer, prompting us to initiate the molecular characterization of this master regulatory gene in ovarian cancer development.
Methods: Immunohistochemistry, immunoblotting and RT-PCR were used to investigate the presence of PAX8 and its protein products in epithelial ovarian cancer subtypes, normal ovarian surface epithelia, ovarian inclusion cysts and normal endosalpingeal epithelia.
Results: In this report, we confirm microarray results indicating that the transcription factor, PAX8, is highly expressed in epithelial ovarian cancer but absent from the precursor ovarian surface epithelia of healthy individuals. Furthermore, we report that PAX8 is localized to the nucleus of non-ciliated epithelia in simple ovarian epithelial inclusion cysts and in three epithelial ovarian cancer subtypes (serous, endometrioid and clear cell). We also determined that PAX8 is expressed in the non-ciliated, secretory cells of healthy fallopian tube mucosal linings but not in the adjacent ciliated epithelia.
Conclusion: These findings support the hypothesis that PAX8 plays parallel roles in the development of epithelial ovarian cancer and in the developmental differentiation of coelomic epithelia into endosalpingeal epithelia.