Immunostaining of the von Hippel-Lindau gene product in normal and neoplastic human tissues

Hum Pathol. 1997 Apr;28(4):459-64. doi: 10.1016/s0046-8177(97)90035-6.


Alterations in the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) gene are correlated with a diverse group of neoplasms including hemangioblastoma, clear cell renal carcinoma (RCC), and pheochromocytoma. Molecular genetic studies suggest that VHL is a tumor-suppressor gene; correspondingly, reintroduction of a VHL complementary DNA (cDNA) into RCC cells inhibits their ability to form tumors in nude mice. Recently, it was discovered that the VHL gene product (pVHL) binds to two subunits of the transcription elongation complex Elongin (SIII), resulting in decreased activity of this complex in vitro. It is proposed that pVHL functions in vivo as a negative regulator of transcription elongation; however, the intracellular localization of pVHL has not been clearly delineated. Epitope-tagged pVHL has been observed in either the nucleus or the cytoplasm of cultured cells, depending on the density of the cell culture. In this article, the cellular localization of pVHL in normal and neoplastic human tissues is documented using three different monoclonal antibodies. Strong expression of pVHL was observed in the epithelial cells of all organs examined, particularly in renal tubules, and was exclusively cytoplasmic. Lesser degrees of staining, also cytoplasmic, were observed in other cell types. A variety of carcinomas (lung, prostate, colon, breast, bladder, and thyroid) showed strong cytoplasmic staining for pVHL including four of five sporadic clear cell RCC. Of the nonepithelial neoplasms examined, only one tumor, an embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, failed to stain for pVHL. The findings establish wide-spread expression of VHL at the protein level and provide strong evidence that most, if not all, pVHL is localized to the cytoplasm of cells in vivo.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Cytoplasm / chemistry
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Ligases*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Prostate / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins*
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases*
  • Urinary Bladder / metabolism
  • Uterus / metabolism
  • Von Hippel-Lindau Tumor Suppressor Protein


  • Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • Von Hippel-Lindau Tumor Suppressor Protein
  • Ligases
  • VHL protein, human