The impact of tissue block sampling on the detection of p53 signatures in fallopian tubes from women with BRCA 1 or 2 mutations (BRCA+) and controls

Mod Pathol. 2011 Jan;24(1):152-6. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2010.171. Epub 2010 Sep 24.


The tubal p53 signature is a putative precursor to pelvic serous carcinoma, but its frequencies in women with inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes (BRCA+) and controls has been controversial. An initial section and two levels (100-200 μm) from every block in BRCA+ (24) and control tubes (40) were stained for p53. The frequency of p53 signatures was computed between the populations and across the three levels from each block, and analyzed by Fisher exact test. A total of 17 (71%) BRCA+ and 20 (50%) control tubes were p53 signature positive (P=0.12); 21 and 16% of all tissue blocks sectioned harbored signatures (P=0.29), and 76 and 67% were found in the fimbria. In 49 and 32% of p53 signature positive cases in the two groups, the p53 signatures were not discovered until the second or third round of sectioning. In all, 38 and 40% of BRCA+ and control subjects harbored p53 signatures in more than one focus in a single block. In one case (BRCA+), a highly atypical proliferation was identified in one serial section. The p53 signatures are more common than previously reported and the frequency of detection increases as a function of sectioning through the tissue block, both in absolute frequency and in numbers of p53 signatures detected in a given block. There is a trend for a higher absolute frequency of p53 signatures (71 vs 50%; P=0.12) in BRCA+ subjects, but this is not reflected in a greater average number of p53 signatures or positive blocks per case. This study underscores the importance of systematic immunohistochemical examination of fallopian tubes when conducting epidemiological studies that compare the frequency of p53 signatures in different populations. Attention to this detail is critical when exploring risk factors germane to early serous carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • BRCA1 Protein / genetics*
  • BRCA2 Protein / genetics*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / genetics*
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / metabolism
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / pathology
  • Fallopian Tube Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Fallopian Tube Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Fallopian Tube Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genes, p53*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation*
  • Tissue Embedding
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • BRCA1 Protein
  • BRCA1 protein, human
  • BRCA2 Protein
  • BRCA2 protein, human
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53