BACKGROUND: To clarify the roles of rat sarcoma (Ras)/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway in oncogenesis and cytodifferentiation of odontogenic tumors, K-Ras gene status and expression of Ras, Raf1, MAPK/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK)1, and ERK1/2 proteins were analyzed in ameloblastomas as well as in tooth germs. METHODS: Paraffin sections of 10 tooth germs and 46 benign and 6 malignant ameloblastomas were examined immunohistochemically for the expression of K-Ras, Raf1, MEK1, and ERK1/2. Frozen tissue samples of 22 benign ameloblastomas and 1 malignant (metastasizing) ameloblastoma were analyzed by direct DNA sequencing to detect K-Ras gene alteration. RESULTS: Immunohistochemical reactivity for K-Ras, Raf1, MEK1, and ERK1/2 was detected in both normal and neoplastic odontogenic epithelium, and these molecules were reactive chiefly with odontogenic epithelial cells neighboring the basement membrane. Plexiform ameloblastomas showed slightly stronger expression of these Ras/MAPK signaling molecules than follicular ameloblastomas. Keratinizing cells and granular cells showed decreased reactivity for the signaling molecules. Basal cell ameloblastomas showed slightly stronger reactivity for the signaling molecules than did the other subtypes. K-Ras immunoreactivity in malignant ameloblastomas was lower than that in dental lamina of tooth germs. Direct DNA sequencing showed a GGT to GCT point mutation at codon 12 of K-Ras gene in one ameloblastoma. CONCLUSION: Expression of K-Ras, Raf1, MEK1, and ERK1/2 in tooth germs and ameloblastomas suggests that Ras/MAPK signaling pathway functions to regulate cell proliferation and differentiation in both normal and neoplastic odontogenic epithelium. K-Ras gene status implied that K-Ras mutations might play a minor role in oncogenesis of odontogenic epithelium.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Oral Surgery
- Cancer Research