Correlation of methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP) protein expression with MTAP and CDKN2A copy number in malignant pleural mesothelioma

Histopathology. 2021 Jun;78(7):1032-1042. doi: 10.1111/his.14324. Epub 2021 Apr 14.


Aims: Methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP) immunohistochemical expression is a specific marker of CDKN2A deletion in malignant mesothelioma. However, the relationship of MTAP expression with MTAP copy number remains unexplored.

Methods and results: Forty malignant pleural mesotheliomas were characterised by targeted next-generation sequencing (29), single-nucleotide polymorphism microarray (seven), or both (four). MTAP and CDKN2A copy numbers were correlated with MTAP expression. Twenty-seven (68%) tumours showed CDKN2A deletion (14 heterozygous; 13 homozygous), of which 20 (74%) showed MTAP codeletion (15 heterozygous; five homozygous). No tumours showed MTAP deletion without CDKN2A codeletion. Loss of MTAP expression was seen in 16 (40%) tumours, and was 75% sensitive and 95% specific for MTAP deletion, and 59% sensitive and 100% specific for CDKN2A deletion. Nine of 40 (23%) tumours showed heterogeneous MTAP staining, and the percentage of tumour cells with MTAP loss correlated with molecular detection of MTAP deletion.

Conclusions: MTAP is frequently codeleted with CDKN2A in pleural mesothelioma. However, homozygous deletion of both genes occurs in a minority of tumours (5/40; 13%); CDKN2A deletion often co-occurs with heterozygous MTAP deletion or neutral MTAP copy number; and MTAP expression correlates inconsistently with heterozygous MTAP deletion. Correspondingly, MTAP immunohistochemistry is a highly specific but only moderately sensitive assay for CDKN2A deletion.

Keywords: cytogenetics; high-throughput nucleotide sequencing; immunohistochemistry; mesothelioma.