Immunohistochemical analysis of Bcl-2, Bcl-X, Mcl-1, and Bax in tumors of central and peripheral nervous system origin. Academic Article uri icon

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  • The expression of Bcl-2, Bcl-X, Mcl-1, and Bax was examined by immunohistochemical methods in 93 tumors of nervous system origin, including 49 gliomas (30 astrocytomas and 19 glioblastoma multiforme (GMs)), 16 medulloblastomas (MBs), 19 neuroblastomas (NBs; 9 undifferentiated and 10 differentiated), and 9 miscellaneous neuroectodermal neoplasms. Among the 49 gliomas, immunopositivity (defined as > or = 10%) was observed for Bcl-2 in 45 (92%), Bcl-X in 48 (98%), Mcl-1 in 49 (100%), and Bax in 48 (98%) of 49 specimens. In 11 (37%) of 30 astrocytomas (WHO grades I to III), the tumor specimens were composed predominantly of malignant cells with strong-intensity Bcl-2 immunostaining, whereas none of the 19 GMs (WHO grade IV) exhibited strong-intensity Bcl-2 immunoreactivity (P = 0.001). Similarly, Mcl-1 immunointensity was strong in 15 (50%) of 30 astrocytomas, compared with only 2 (11%) of 19 GMs (P = 0.005). The percentage of Mcl-1-immunopositive tumor cells was also higher in astrocytomas than GMs (P < 0.002). Thus, contrary to a priori expectations, the expression of the anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Mcl-1 was significantly higher in astrocytomas than in GMs. Of the 16 MBs, immunopositivity was found for Bcl-2 in 4 (25%), Bcl-X in 9 (56%), Mcl-1 in 8 (50%), and Bax in 16 (100%) of the cases. The intensity of immunostaining was strong for Bcl-2 in only 1 (6%) specimen, for Bcl-X in 3 (19%), and for Mcl-1 in 2 (12.5%), in contrast to Bax immunostaining, which was strong in 12 (75%) tumors. Significantly higher percentages of Bax-immunopositive tumor cells were also found in MBs, compared with Bcl-2, Bcl-X, and Mcl-1 (P < 0.0001). All 19 NBs were immunopositive for Bcl-2, Bcl-X, Mcl-1, and Bax. Higher percentages of Bcl-X- and Mcl-1-immunopositive tumor cells were observed in well differentiated tumors (P = 0.04 and 0.004, respectively). The intensity of Mcl-1 immunostaining was also generally higher in differentiated than undifferentiated NBs (strong immunointensity in 7 of 10 versus 0 of 9; P = 0.002). Conversely, strong-intensity Bax immunostaining was associated with undifferentiated histology (5 of 9 (56%) versus 1 of 10 (10%); P = 0.03). Taken together, these findings begin to delineate trends in the regulation of the relative levels of the Bcl-2 family proteins, Bcl-2, Bcl-X, Mcl-1, and Bax in gliomas, MBs, NBs, and some of their histological subtypes. The suggestion that expression of some of these Bcl-2 family genes may be differentially regulated in association with tumor progression and differentiation provides insights into the diverse biology and clinical behavior of these tumors of nervous system origin.


  • Krajewski, S
  • Krajewska, M
  • Ehrmann, J
  • Sikorska, M
  • Lach, Boleslaw
  • Chatten, J
  • Reed, JC

publication date

  • March 1997

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