Emi1 protein accumulation implicates misregulation of the anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome pathway in ovarian clear cell carcinoma

Mod Pathol. 2008 Apr;21(4):445-54. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.3801022. Epub 2008 Jan 18.


Clear cell carcinoma is a clinically and pathologically distinct entity among surface epithelial ovarian neoplasms, recognized for its resistance to standard platinum-based chemotherapy at advanced stage disease and poor prognosis. Despite advances in our understanding of the biology of other surface epithelial ovarian neoplasms, very little is known about the molecular genetic mechanisms that are involved in clear cell tumorigenesis. Early mitotic inhibitor-1 (Emi1) protein is a key cell cycle regulator, that promotes S-phase and mitotic entry by inhibiting the anaphase promoting complex. In cell culture systems, overexpression of Emi1 leads to tetraploidy and genomic instability, especially in the absence of normal p53 function. We investigated Emi1 protein expression in ovarian neoplasms using a tissue microarray constructed from 339 primary ovarian surface epithelial (serous, endometrioid, clear cell, and mucinous) and peritoneal (serous) neoplasms, stromal and mesenchymal tumors, germ cell tumors, and normal ovarian tissue. Significant overexpression of Emi1 protein was present in 82% (27/33) clear cell carcinoma, including one borderline tumor in a diffuse, granular cytoplasmic and perinuclear staining pattern, independent of patient age, presence of ovarian and/or pelvic endometriosis, and FIGO stage. In contrast, only 10% (17/177) primary ovarian and primary peritoneal serous carcinomas, 0% (0/10) mucinous carcinomas, and 19% (6/32) endometrioid carcinomas exhibited significant Emi1 protein overexpression. Accumulation of Emi1 protein was not linked to Ki-67 labeling index, but was directly correlated with cyclin E and inversely correlated with ER in clear cell carcinoma (P<0.001). Emi1 protein expression was present in mixed endometrioid/clear cell tumors but absent in tumors with mixed serous/clear cell histology. These findings represent a potentially important insight into the molecular pathway underlying ovarian carcinogenesis and provide a possible cell cycle model for the development and progression of ovarian clear cell carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Clear Cell / metabolism*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Clear Cell / pathology
  • Anaphase-Promoting Complex-Cyclosome
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Cyclin E / metabolism
  • F-Box Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Precancerous Conditions / metabolism
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligase Complexes / metabolism*


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cyclin E
  • F-Box Proteins
  • FBXO5 protein, human
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligase Complexes
  • Anaphase-Promoting Complex-Cyclosome