Bcl-2 protein expression in lung cancer and close correlation with neuroendocrine differentiation

Am J Pathol. 1996 Mar;148(3):837-46.


For determination of the cellular distribution of bcl-2 expression in lung cancer and clarification of its correlation with cell neuroendocrine differentiation, Bcl-2 immunostaining was carried out on a large series of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded lung cancer samples, and four general neuroendocrine marker and seven peptide hormone stainings were carried out on all Bcl-2-positive squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas of the lung as well as on 8 pulmonary neuroendocrine carcinomas histologically diagnosed. In addition, 3 small cell lung cancer cell lines were studied by Western blotting. Neuroendocrine differentiation in Bcl-2-negative squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas was examined with chromogranin A and alpha-subunit of Go protein stainings. Bcl-2 protein was detected in 104/111 small cell carcinomas, 8/8 neuroendocrine carcinomas, 0/6 typical (well differentiated) carcinoids, 23/64 squamous cell carcinomas, 4/65 adenocarcinomas, and all 3 small cell lung cancer cell lines. All 8 neuroendocrine carcinomas, 11 of the Bcl-2-positive squamous cell carcinomas, and all 4 Bcl-2 positive adenocarcinomas expressed multiple neuroendocrine markers. The distributions of Bcl-2 and neuroendocrine marker immunoreactivity closely paralleled each other on consecutive sections. In squamous cell carcinomas, Bcl-2-positive cells could be roughly subdivided into those with neuroendocrine differentiation features, usually demonstrating intense Bcl-2 staining, with basaloid tumor cells usually expressing weak to moderate Bcl-2 staining. The present study clearly shows Bcl-2 protein expression to be remarkably differentially regulated according to histological types of lung cancers and to appear to quite likely be closely associated with neuroendocrine differentiation of tumor cells, indicating that bcl-2 is importantly involved in cell development and differentiation, in addition to protecting cells from apoptosis. Bcl-2 might be usable as a neuroendocrine marker in lung cancers and possibly also in neural-crest-derived tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / pathology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neurosecretory Systems / pathology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism*
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2