Immunodetection of GLUT1, p63 and phospho-histone H1 in invasive head and neck squamous carcinoma: correlation of immunohistochemical staining patterns with keratinization

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To examine invasive head and neck squamous carcinomas for expression of GLUT1, a glucose transporter and marker of increased glucose uptake, glycolytic metabolism and response to tissue hypoxia; p63, a p53 homologue that is a marker of the undifferentiated proliferative basaloid phenotype; and phospho-histone H1, a marker of activation of the cell cycle-promoting cyclin-dependent kinases 1 and 2.


Routinely processed slides from 34 invasive squamous carcinomas, including 25 with intraepithelial components, were immunostained with anti-GLUT1 (Chemicon), anti-p63 (4A4, Santa Cruz), and antiphospho-histone H1 (monoclonal 12D11).


In keratinizing carcinomas, all three markers were most commonly immunodetected peripherally, with loss of expression in central keratinized zones. In contrast, in non-keratinizing carcinomas, p63 and phospho-histone H1 expression was most commonly observed throughout tumour nests and anti-GLUT1 stained in a pattern suggestive of hypoxia-induced expression (‘antistromal’ staining), in which cells at the tumour–stromal interface were GLUT1– and cells in central, perinecrotic zones showed progressive induction of GLUT1. Intraepithelial components also displayed basal and ‘antibasal’ GLUT1 staining patterns, homologous to the pro- and antistromal patterns in invasive carcinoma; basal patterns in intraepithelial lesions appeared to be more predictive of keratinizing invasive carcinoma and antibasal intraepithelial staining more predictive of non-keratinizing poorly differentiated carcinomas.


Keratinizing and non-keratinizing squamous carcinomas differ in expression patterns of GLUT1, p63 and phospho-histone H1. In the former, all three markers were typically suppressed in conjunction with keratinization; in the latter, GLUT1 expression was more likely to occur in a hypoxia-inducible pattern and expression of p63 and phospho-histone H1 was unsuppressed. GLUT1 expression patterns in intraepithelial lesions may be predictive of the differentiation status of the associated invasive carcinoma.

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