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Expression pattern of PLUNC proteins as an auxiliary tool for the diagnosis of high-grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma of the salivary gland


Márcio Ajudarte Lopes, DDS, PhD, Área de Semiologia, Faculdade de Odontologia de Piracicaba-UNICAMP, Av. Limeira, 901, Bairro Areão, Piracicaba, São Paulo, CEP 13.414-903, Brazil. Tel: +55 19 2106 5320, Fax: +55 19 2106 5218, E-mail:


J Oral Pathol Med (2012) 41: 589–597

Background:  Mucoepidermoid carcinomas are the most frequent malignant neoplasia of the salivary glands and are histologically classified as low, intermediate, and high grade. At present, histochemical stains such as periodic acid-Schiff or mucicarmine are useful tools in making a diagnosis. Recently, expression of the PLUNC proteins has been described in mucin-producing salivary gland tumors, with the suggestion that they could provide a powerful tool for the diagnosis of difficult cases.

Methods:  This study evaluates the expression of PLUNC proteins in 30 cases of salivary gland mucoepidermoid carcinomas. Tumors were reviewed and classified according to histological grade. Periodic acid-Schiff, mucicarmine, and immunohistochemical staining for SPLUNC1, LPLUNC1, SPLUNC2, and LPLUNC2 were carried out. Immunostaining was classified as positive or negative.

Results:  The majority of the tumors (63%) were classified as low grade, 13% were intermediate grade, and 23% were high grade. SPLUNC1 (90%) and LPLUNC1 (93%) were positive in the majority of cases, mainly in mucous cells, mucin plugs, and intermediate cells. SPLUNC2 and LPLUNC2 did not present significative expression within the tumors; however, LPLUNC2 was found to stain positively in mast cells in 83% of the samples.

Conclusions:  SPLUNC1 and LPLUNC1 showed a similar pattern of expression and could prove useful in the diagnosis of high-grade cases because of the differential staining in intermediate and epidermoid cells. The expression of LPLUNC2 in mast cells has not previously been reported, but further studies are necessary to validate this finding and to determine its significance.

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