Immunocytochemical staining of p16INK4a protein from conventional Pap test and its association with human papillomavirus infection



The p16INK4a protein is immunocytochemically detected in liquid-based (LB) specimens as a diagnostic marker of cervical dysplasia and neoplasia. Its up-regulation is promoted by high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) infection. We aimed to detect p16INK4a on conventional Papanicolaou (Pap) test (CPT) slides and to determine the relationship between its overexpression and HR-HPV infection. CPT and LB Pap test (LBPT) slides (165 samples of each) were examined by immunocytochemical staining for p16INK4a. After polymerase chain reaction (PCR), HPV-DNA was genotyped by dot blot hybridization. The CPT slides displayed more numerous dispersed squamous cells and LBPT slides had a clearer background. Positive p16INK4a on CPT occurred in 0% (0/30), 52.5% (21/40), 54.3% (19/35), 100% (30/30), and 100% (30/30) in normal, atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS), low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSILs), high-grade SILs (HSILs), and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) cases, respectively. LBPT slides showed comparable results but were less sensitive. HPV-DNA was detected in 86.7, 70, 45, 57.14, and 10% in SCCs, HSILs, ASCUS, LSILs, and normal cervical cells, respectively. Because HR-HPV was identified in all HPV+ samples of high-grade dysplasia (HSILs and SCCs) and all positive p16INK4a samples infected with HR-HPV, the association of p16INK4a overexpression with HR-HPV infection was confirmed. This study suggests that immunocytochemical staining of p16INK4a on CPT slides is convenient and cost-effective for cervical cancer screening by the detection of dysplastic cells infected with HR-HPV. Diagn. Cytopathol. 2004;31:235–242. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.