The retinoblastoma protein/p16 INK4A pathway but not p53 is disrupted by human papillomavirus in penile squamous cell carcinoma

Histopathology. 2011 Feb;58(3):433-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.2011.03762.x. Epub 2011 Feb 16.


Aims: The pathogenesis of penile squamous cell carcinoma (PSCC) is not well understood. Human papillomavirus (HPV) may be involved in carcinogenesis, but few studies have compared cell-cycle protein expression in HPV positive and negative cancers. The aim was to determine the extent of HPV infection in different histological subtypes of PSCC and its impact on the expression of key cell-cycle proteins: p53, p21, p16(INK4A) and retinoblastoma (RB) protein.

Methods and results: One hundred and forty-eight PSCC samples were examined immunohistochemically for RB, p16(INK4A) , p53 and p21 protein expression. One hundred and two cases were typed for HPV by PCR. HPV DNA was detected in 56% of tumours, with HPV16 present in 81%. Basaloid tumours were related strongly to HPV infection (10 of 13), while verrucous were not (three of 13). Fifty-nine per cent (38 of 64) of usual type SCCs had HPV infection. RB protein correlated negatively (P<0.0001) and p16(INK4A) (P<0.0001) and p21 (P=0.0002) correlated positively with HPV infection. p53 did not correlate with HPV infection.

Conclusions: HPV infection is present in more than half of penile cancers and it is responsible for RB pathway disruption. However, no link between HPV and p53 immunodetection was found. Only basaloid and half of usual-type PSSCs correlate with HPV infection, confirming possible separate aetiologies for those tumours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16 / metabolism*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / metabolism
  • Papillomaviridae / pathogenicity
  • Papillomavirus Infections / metabolism*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Penile Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Penile Neoplasms / pathology
  • Penile Neoplasms / virology*
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16
  • DNA, Viral
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53