Expression of surfactant associated protein-A and Clara cell 10 kilodalton mRNA in neoplastic and non-neoplastic human lung tissue as detected by in situ hybridization
Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung
Two markers for the progenitor cells of peripheral airways and their tumors are the 10 kilodalton (kd) Clara cell protein and the major surfactant associated protein-A (SP-A). We used the RNA-RNA in situ hybridization technique to study expression of the genes encoding these proteins at the cellular level in 19 pairs of non-neoplastic and neoplastic tissues from resected human lungs. Our results show that in non-neoplastic lung tissue, the Clara 10 kd protein gene was expressed in nonciliated cells of both bronchial and bronchiolar epithelium, indicating that, in contrast to previous assumptions, cells with Clara cell-like differentiation in humans may not be restricted to bronchiolar cells. The incidence of Clara 10 kd protein gene expression, as detected in lung carcinomas (1 out of 19 cases positive) was less than expected based on previous ultrastructural reports. The SP-A gene was strongly expressed in normal alveolar type II cells in non-neoplastic lung and, at higher levels, in hyperplastic cells. In addition, SP-A mRNA expression was observed in scattered bronchial and bronchiolar epithelial cells in 40% of the airways examined. Five out of 17 lung tumors, all of which were adenocarcinomas, were positive for SP-A expression, albeit generally less intense than type II cells. This expression was seen in carcinomas with papillolepidic as well as solid and glandular growth patterns. Our findings provide new insights into the peripheral airway cell differentiation.