To investigate the molecular mechanism of gastric carcinogenesis, we examined simultaneously the frequency of microsatellite instability and the immunoreactivities to ras, erbB-2, and p53 in 42 gastric adenocarcinoma tissues. Microsatellite instability, measured by DNA replication error, was detected in 33.3% (14/42) of patients with gastric carcinoma while positive immunostaining was demonstrated in 3.1% (1/32) for ras, 40.5% (17/42) for erbB-2, and 28.6% (12/42) for p53. There was no statistical difference between the intestinal type and the diffuse type of carcinoma with respect to microsatellite instability, ras, or erbB-2 expression. The expression of p53 occurred more frequently in the intestinal type of carcinoma (41.7%, 10/24) than in the diffuse type of carcinoma (11.1%, 2/18; P < 0.01). There was no association between microsatellite instability and ras or p53 expression, while enhanced expression of erbB-2 occurred more frequently in carcinomas with microsatellite instability (64.3%, 9/14) than in those without microsatellite instability (28.6%, 8/28; P < 0.05). Such a strong association between microsatellite instability and erbB-2 oncogene may be responsible for the increase of other oncogenic mutations and tumor progression in gastric carcinogenesis.

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This study was supported by Grant DOH-84-TD-010 from the National Science Council and the Department of Health, Executive Yuan, Taiwan, Republic of China.

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