Author(s): MacabeoOng M, Ginzinger DG, Dekker N, McMillan A, Regezi JA,
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Abstract Increasingly, there is the need to analyze gene expression in tumor tissues and correlate these findings with clinical outcome. Because there are few tissue banks containing enough frozen material suitable for large-scale genetic analyses, methods to isolate and quantify messenger RNA (mRNA) from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections are needed. Recovery of RNA from routinely processed biopsies and quantification by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has been reported; however, the effects of formalin fixation have not been well studied. We used a proteinase K-salt precipitation RNA isolation protocol followed by TaqMan quantitative PCR to compare the effect of formalin fixation for 24, 48, and 72 hours and for 1 week in normal (2), oral epithelial dysplasia (3), and oral squamous cell carcinoma (4) specimens yielding 9 fresh and 36 formalin-fixed samples. We also compared mRNA and protein expression levels using immunohistochemistry for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1, p21, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in 15 randomly selected and routinely processed oral carcinomas. We were able to extract RNA suitable for quantitative reverse transcription (RT) from all fresh (9/9) and formalin-fixed (36/36) specimens fixed for differing lengths of time and from all (15/15) randomly selected oral squamous cell carcinoma. We found that prolonged formalin fixation (>48 h) had a detrimental effect on quantitative RT polymerase chain reaction results that was most marked for MMP-1 and VEGF but less evident for p21 and EGFR. Comparisons of quantitative RT polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry showed that for all markers, except p21, there was good correlation between mRNA and protein levels. p21 mRNA was overexpressed in only one case, but protein levels were elevated in all but one tumor, consistent with the established translational regulation of p21. These results show that RNA can be reliably isolated from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections and can produce reliable quantitative RT-PCR data. However, results for some markers are adversely affected by prolonged formalin fixation times.
This article was published in Mod Pathol
and referenced in Journal of Molecular Biomarkers & Diagnosis