Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a major healthcare problem worldwide. Efforts in our laboratory and others focusing on the molecular characterization of OSCC tumors with the use of DNA microarrays have yielded heterogeneous results. To validate the DNA microarray results on a subset of genes from these studies that could potentially serve as biomarkers of OSCC, we elected to examine their expression by an alternate quantitative method and by assessing their protein levels.
Based on DNA microarray data from our lab and data reported in the literature, we identified six potential biomarkers of OSCC to investigate further. We employed quantitative, real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) to examine expression changes of CDH11, MMP3, SPARC, POSTN, TNC, TGM3 in OSCC and normal control tissues. We further examined validated markers on the protein level by immunohistochemistry (IHC) analysis of OSCC tissue microarray (TMA) sections.
qRT-PCR analysis revealed up-regulation of CDH11, SPARC, POSTN, and TNC gene expression, and decreased TGM3 expression in OSCC compared to normal controls. MMP3 was not found to be differentially expressed. In TMA IHC analyses, SPARC, periostin, and tenascin C exhibited increased protein expression in cancer compared to normal tissues, and their expression was primarily localized within tumor-associated stroma rather than tumor epithelium. Conversely, transglutaminase-3 protein expression was found only within keratinocytes in normal controls, and was significantly down-regulated in cancer cells.
Of six potential gene markers of OSCC, initially identified by DNA microarray analyses, differential expression of CDH11, SPARC, POSTN, TNC, and TGM3 were validated by qRT-PCR. Differential expression and localization of proteins encoded by SPARC, POSTN, TNC, and TGM3 were clearly shown by TMA IHC.