Spindle proteins are differentially expressed in the various histological subtypes of testicular germ cell tumors

Espen Burum-Auensen1, Rolf I Skotheim2, Aasa R Schjolberg1, Jo Roislien3, Ragnhild A Lothe2, Ole Petter F Clausen1
1Division of Pathology, Medical Faculty, University of Oslo, Rikshospitalet, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
2Department of Cancer Prevention, Institute for Cancer Research, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo; Center for Cancer Biomedicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
3Department of Biostatistics, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.


Background: Testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs) are characterized by an aneuploid DNA content. Aberrant expression of spindle proteins such as the Aurora kinases and the spindle checkpoint proteins MAD2 and BUB1B, are thought to contribute to the development of chromosomal instability and DNA aneuploidy in cancer. The importance of these spindle proteins remains unknown in the development of TGCTs, thus we have explored the expression levels of these proteins in normal and malignant testicular tissues. Materials and Methods: Using tissue microarrays the expression levels of Aurora kinase A (AURKA), Aurora kinase B (AURKB), BUB1B and MAD2 were measured in normal, preneoplastic and malignant testicular tissues of different histological subtypes from 279 orchidectomy specimens by means of immunohistochemistry. Results: All the spindle proteins except for AURKB were expressed in normal testis. Sixty-eight and 36%, respectively, of the primary spermatocytes in the normal testis were positive for BUB1B and MAD2, while only 5% of the cells were positive for AURKA. There was a significantly lower expression of the spindle checkpoint proteins in carcinoma in situ compared to normal testis (P=0.008 and P=0.043 for BUB1B and MAD2, respectively), while the level of AURKA was increased, however, not significantly (P=0.18). The extent of spindle protein expression varied significantly within the different histological subtypes of TGCTs (P<0.001 for AURKB, BUB1B and MAD2, P=0.003 for AURKA). The expression of AURKA was significantly elevated in both non-seminomas (P=0.003) and seminomas (P=0.015). The level of BUB1B was significantly decreased in non-seminomas (P<0.001). A similar tendency was observed for MAD2 (P=0.11). Conclusions: In carcinoma in situ of TGCTs the spindle checkpoint proteins MAD2 and BUB1B are significantly less expressed compared to normal testis, while the expression of AURKA is increased. We suggest that these changes may be of importance in the transition from in situ to invasive testicular cancer.

Keywords: Aurora kinases, spindle checkpoint, testicular cancer.