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Gestational trophoblastic disease encompasses a spectrum of trophoblastic lesions including true neoplasms such as choriocarcinomas and the potentially malignant hydatidiform moles, which may develop persistent disease requiring chemotherapy. ASPP1, a member of apoptosis-stimulating proteins of p53 (ASPPs), is a proapoptotic protein that can stimulate apoptosis through its interaction with p53. We evaluated the promoter methylation and expression profiles of ASPP1 in different trophoblastic tissues and its in vitro functional effect on two choriocarcinoma cell lines, namely JEG-3 and JAR. Significant downregulation of ASPP1 mRNA and protein levels was demonstrated in hydatidiform moles and choriocarcinomas, when compared with normal placentas by quantitative-PCR and immunohistochemistry. The ASPP1 mRNA level was significantly correlated with its hypermethylation status, evaluated with methylation-specific PCR, in placenta and gestational trophoblastic disease samples (P=0.024). Moreover, lower ASPP1 immunoreactivity was shown in hydatidiform moles that progressed to persistent gestational trophoblastic neoplasms than in those that regressed (P=0.045). A significant correlation was also found between expression of ASPP1 and proliferative indices (assessed by Ki67 and MCM7), apoptotic activity (M30 CytoDeath antibody), p53 and caspase-8 immunoreactivities. An in vitro study showed that ectopic expression of ASPP1 could trigger apoptosis through intrinsic and extrinsic pathways as indicated by an increase in cleaved caspase-9 and Fas ligand protein expression. The latter suggests a hitherto unreported novel link between ASPP1 and the extrinsic pathway of apoptosis. Our findings suggest that downregulation of ASPP1 by hypermethylation may be involved in the pathogenesis and progress of gestational trophoblastic disease, probably through its effect on apoptosis.

Original publication




Journal article


Mod Pathol

Publication Date





522 - 532


Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing, Apoptosis, Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins, Biomarkers, Tumor, Blotting, Western, Cell Cycle Proteins, Cell Line, Tumor, Cell Proliferation, Chi-Square Distribution, Choriocarcinoma, DNA Methylation, Down-Regulation, Female, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Gestational Trophoblastic Disease, Hong Kong, Humans, Hydatidiform Mole, Immunohistochemistry, Placenta, Pregnancy, Prognosis, Promoter Regions, Genetic, RNA, Messenger, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Transfection, Trophoblastic Neoplasms