Immunohistochemical and mutational analysis of the p53 tumour suppressor gene and the bcl-2 oncogene in primary testicular germ cell tumours

APMIS. 1998 Jan;106(1):90-9; discussion 99-100. doi: 10.1111/j.1699-0463.1998.tb01324.x.


The role of p53 in testicular germ cell tumours is still contradictory based on the finding of immunohistochemical overexpression at the protein level, but lack of mutations at the DNA level. In addition, p53 wild-type activity has been demonstrated in cell culture experiments. Overexpression of the proto-oncogene bcl-2 might block p53-induced apoptosis and might inhibit p53 functional activity. To clarify the apparent paradox with respect to p53 overexpression and lack of mutations, an immunohistochemical and mutational analysis of p53 and bcl-2 in TGCT was performed. Ten normal testes, 52 CIS and 151 clinical stage I nonseminomatous GCTs were included in our study. A commercially available anti-p53 polyclonal rabbit antibody and an anti-bcl-2-mouse monoclonal antibody were used to stain the 5pm sections. Staining was assessed by counting at least 500 cells from the area of the most intense staining in each tumour cell type, and this was scored semiquantitatively for intensity of staining on a 4 point scale. In addition, 30 primary GCTs were included in the mutational analysis: areas with p53 overexpression were identified and microdissected prior to DNA extraction. p53 exons 5-8 were amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) followed by single strand conformation polymorphism analysis. Templates demonstrating band shifts on SSCP were subjected to direct DNA sequence analysis. None of the normal testes, 32/52 (62%) CIS, and 142/151 (94%) germ cell tumours exhibited p53 overexpression. p53 expression was significantly lower in mature teratomas (0.8 +/- 0.2) than in other germ cell tumour components (2.8 +/- 1.2, p > 0.001). PCR-SSCP did not reveal any missense mutations or deletions for the p53 gene. Bcl-2 protein expression was observed in none of the normal testes, in none of the CIS, and in 14/151 (9.3%) germ cell tumours. 13/14 germ cell tumours demonstrated bcl-2 expression only in the glandular and stromal elements of their teratomatous components whereas all other components were negative for bcl-2. Our results--p53 overexpression, lack of p53 mutations, undetectable bcl-2--are consistent with recent in vitro studies. High susceptibility of testicular cancer to drug-induced apoptosis appears to be the result of wild-type p53 and lack of bcl-2. Radiation and chemotherapeutic insensitivity of mature teratomas might be the result of bcl-2 overexpression and lack of p53 overexpression. Therefore, chemoresistance to DNA damaging agents might be reflected by the expression of p53 and bcl-2 and it might be useful to evaluate p53 and bcl-2 in primary tumours and metastatic lesions in order to identify patients early with primary or secondary chemoresistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Genes, bcl-2
  • Germinoma / genetics*
  • Germinoma / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mutation*
  • Proto-Oncogene Mas
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / analysis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics*
  • Rabbits
  • Testicular Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Testicular Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / analysis
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics*


  • MAS1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Mas
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53