p63 in pulmonary epithelium, pulmonary squamous neoplasms, and other pulmonary tumors

Beverly Y. Wang, Joan Gil, David Kaufman, Li Gan, Stave S. Kohtz, David E. Burstein

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159 Scopus citations


p63 is a p53-homologous nuclear protein that appears to play a crucial role in regulation of stem cell commitment in squamous and other epithelia. In this study, p63 expression was examined in benign lung and in neoplasms of pulmonary origin. Eighty sections from routinely fixed and processed archival bronchoscopic biopsy or lobectomy specimens were pretreated with citric acid (pH 6.0) for antigen retrieval, then incubated overnight with anti-p63 monoclonal antibody 4A4. Slides were stained using a streptavidin-biotin kit and diaminobenzidine as chromagen, and were counterstained with hematoxylin. In normal lung, p63 intensely stained nuclei of bronchial reserve cells but did not stain ciliated cells, alveolar epithelial cells, or nonepithelial cells. The lower strata of squamous metaplastic bronchial epithelium stained positively. All squamous-cell carcinomas stained positively (n = 30). In some well-differentiated carcinomas, staining was found at the periphery of tumor nests but was negative in central zones showing squamous maturation. Poorly differentiated carcinomas showed very high proportions (80% to 100%) of p63-positive nuclei. All small-cell carcinomas were p63 negative (n = 9). Staining of bronchioloalveolar carcinomas (n = 7) and adenocarcinomas (n = 23) was variable: some tumors showed no detectable staining, others showed heterogeneously positive staining. Adenosquamous carcinomas (n = 5) displayed a unique basalar staining pattern. Carcinoid tumors were almost entirely negative (n = 5). We conclude that p63 is expressed in benign bronchial stem cells, in neoplastic cells with either squamous differentiation or squamous differentiating potential, and in a subpopulation of adenocarcinomas. p63 immunostaining may also aid in some histopathologic distinctions, such as in small biopsies where the differential diagnosis is poorly differentiated squamous carcinoma versus small-cell carcinoma. A stem cell biology-based classification system for squamous carcinomas is proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-926
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Pathology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenosquamous carcinoma
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung carcinoma
  • Small-cell carcinoma
  • Squamous carcinoma
  • Stem cell
  • Tumor differentiation
  • p63


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