Allelic deletions involving the short arm of chromosome 3 (3p13–21.1) have been observed frequently in cervical carcinomas. Recently, a candidate tumor suppressor gene, FHIT (Fragile Histidine Triad), was cloned and mapped to this chromosomal region (3p14.2). Abnormal FHIT transcripts have been identified previously in a variety of tumor cell lines and primary carcinomas, although their significance and the molecular mechanisms underlying their origin remain incompletely defined. In addition, integration of human papillomavirus DNA has been identified at a fragile site (FRA3B) within the FHIT locus in cervical cancer. These observations motivated us to evaluate FHIT mRNA and protein expression in cervical cancer cell lines, primary cervical carcinomas, and normal tissues. Transcripts of the expected size and sequence were the predominant species identified by reverse transcription (RT)-PCR in cultured keratinocytes and all normal tissues evaluated. In contrast, aberrant FHIT transcripts were readily demonstrated in 6 of 7 cervical carcinoma cell lines and 17 of 25 (68%) primary cervical carcinomas. Northern blot analyses demonstrated reduced or absent FHIT expression in the cervical carcinoma cell lines, particularly those with aberrant RT-PCR products. Immunohistochemical analysis of Fhit expression in cervical tissues revealed strong immunoreactivity in nonneoplastic squamous and glandular cervical epithelium and marked reduction or loss of Fhit protein in 25 of 33 (76%) primary cervical carcinomas. In those cervical cancer cell lines and primary tumors with exclusively aberrant or absent FHIT transcripts by RT-PCR, Fhit protein expression was always markedly reduced or absent. The frequent alterations in FHIT expression in many cervical carcinomas, but not in normal tissues, suggest that FHIT gene alterations may play an important role in cervical tumorigenesis.
This work was supported by the Richard W. TeLinde endowment, funds from the Caring Collection, and Grant CA 64466 from the NIH (to K. R. C.).