Proteasome particle-rich structures are widely present in human epithelial neoplasms: Correlative light, confocal and electron microscopy study

Vittorio Necchi, Patrizia Sommi, Alessandro Vanoli, Rachele Manca, Vittorio Ricci, Enrico Solcia

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A novel cytoplasmic structure has been recently characterized by confocal and electron microscopy in H. pylori-infected human gastric epithelium, as an accumulation of barrel-like proteasome reactive particles colocalized with polyubiquitinated proteins, H. pylori toxins and the NOD1 receptor. This proteasome particle-rich cytoplasmic structure (PaCS), a sort of focal proteasome hyperplasia, was also detected in dysplastic cells and was found to be enriched in SHP2 and ERK proteins, known to play a role in H. pylori-mediated gastric carcinogenesis. However, no information is available on its occurrence in neoplastic growths. In this study, surgical specimens of gastric cancer and various other human epithelial neoplasms have been investigated for PaCSs by light, confocal and electron microscopy including correlative confocal and electron microscopy (CCEM). PaCSs were detected in gastric cohesive, pulmonary large cell and bronchioloalveolar, thyroid papillary, parotid gland, hepatocellular, ovarian serous papillary, uterine cervix and colon adenocarcinomas, as well as in pancreatic serous microcystic adenoma. H. pylori bodies, their virulence factors (VacA, CagA, urease, and outer membrane proteins) and the NOD1 bacterial proteoglycan receptor were selectively concentrated inside gastric cancer PaCSs, but not in PaCSs from other neoplasms which did, however, retain proteasome and polyubiquitinated proteins reactivity. No evidence of actual microbial infection was obtained in most PaCS-positive neoplasms, except for H. pylori in gastric cancer and capsulated bacteria in a colon cancer case. Particle lysis and loss of proteasome distinctive immunoreactivities were seen in some tumour cell PaCSs, possibly ending in sequestosomes or autophagic bodies. It is concluded that PaCSs are widely represented in human neoplasms and that both non-infectious and infectious factors activating the ubiquitin-proteasome system are likely to be involved in their origin. PaCS detection might help clarify the role of the ubiquitin-proteasome system in carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere21317
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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