Expression of pRb and p16INK4 in human thymic epithelial tumors in relation to the presence of human polyomavirus 7

Marlies Keijzers, Dorit Rensspiess, Sreedhar Pujari, Myrurgia A. Abdul-Hamid, Monique Hochstenbag, Anne-Marie Dingemans, Anna Kordelia Kurz, Anke Haugg, Jos. G. Maessen, Marc H. De Baets, Axel zur Hausen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: We have recently reported the presence of the Human polyomavirus 7 (HPyV7) in human thymic epithelial tumors as assessed by diverse molecular techniques. Here we report on the co-expression of p16, retinoblastoma protein (pRb) and phosphorylated retinoblastoma protein (phospho-Rb) in human thymic epithelial tumors in relation to HPyV7. Methods: PRB, phospho-RB and p16 expression was assessed by immuno-histochemistry in 37 thymomas and 2 thymic carcinomas. 17 thymomas (46 %) and 1 thymic carcinoma (50 %) were recently tested positive for HPyV7. In addition, 20 follicular hyperplasias were tested. Results: Expression of pRb was observed in 35 thymomas (94.6 %), in 16 thymomas (43.2 %) the expression was strong. Phospho-Rb was observed in 31 thymomas (83.8 %). 19 thymomas (51.4 %) showed immunoreactivity for p16 of which 8 thymomas revealed very strong p16 expression. No p16 expression was detected in thymic carcinomas. In addition, no significant correlation between the presence of HPyV7 and pRb-, phospho-Rb-and p16-expression could be established. No correlation between pRb, phospho-Rb, p16 and WHO staging, Masaoka-Koga staging or the presence of MG was found. All 20 follicular hyperplasias showed expression of pRb and less expression of phospho-Rb. Conclusions: Although polyomaviruses have been shown to interact with cell cycle proteins no correlation between the presence of HPyV7 and the expression of pRb, phospho-Rb and p16 in human thymic epithelial tumors was observed. In as much HPyV7 contributes to human thymomagenesis remains to be established. Our data indicate pRb, phospho-Rb and p16 expression are rather unlikely to be involved in HPyV7 related thymomagenesis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number201
JournalDiagnostic Pathology
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2015


  • Thymic epithelial tumors
  • Human polyomavirus 7
  • pRB
  • p16
  • Viral tumorigenesis

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