Carcinogenic HPV infection in the cervical squamo-columnar junction
Mirkovic J, Howitt BE, Roncarati P, Demoulin S, Suarez-Carmona M, Hubert P, McKeon FD, Xian W, Li A, Delvenne P, Crum1 CP, Herfs M
Abstract: Recent studies have suggested the involvement of a unique population of cells at the cervical squamo-columnar junction (SCJ) in the pathogenesis of early (squamous intraepithelial lesion or SIL) and advanced (squamous cell and adeno-carcinomas) cervical neoplasia. However, there is little evidence to date showing that SCJ cells harbour carcinogenic HPV or are instrumental in the initial phases of neoplasia. This study was designed to (1) determine if normal-appearing SCJ cells contained evidence of carcinogenic HPV infection and (2) trace their transition to early SIL. Sections of cervix from high-risk reproductive age women were selected and SCJ cells were analysed by using several techniques which increasingly implicated HPV infection: HPV DNA (genotyping and in situ hybridization)/RNA (PCR), immunostaining for HPV16 E2 (an early marker of HPV infection), p16ink4, Ki67, and HPV L1 protein. In 22 cases with a history of SIL and no evidence of preneoplastic lesion in the excision specimen, HPV DNA was isolated from eight of ten with visible SCJ cells, six of which were HPV16/18 DNA-positive. In five of these latter cases, the SCJ cells were positive for p16ink4 and/or HPV E2. Transcriptionally active HPV infection (E6/E7 mRNAs) was also detected in microdissected SCJ cells. Early squamous atypia associated with the SCJ cells demonstrated in addition diffuse p16ink4 immunoreactivity, elevated proliferative index, and rare L1 antigen positivity. We present for the first time direct evidence that normal-appearing SCJ cells can be infected by carcinogenic HPV. They initially express HPV E2 and their progression to SIL is heralded by an expanding metaplastic progeny with increased proliferation and p16ink4 expression. Whether certain SCJs are more vulnerable than others to carcinogenic HPV genotypes and what variables determine transition to high-grade SIL remain unresolved, but the common event appears to be a vulnerable cell at the SCJ. Copyright © 2015 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The Journal of Pathology. 2015; 236(3):265–271 DOI: 10.1002/path.4533