Human papillomaviruses, p16 INK4a and Akt expression in basal cell carcinoma

Francesca Paolini, Angelo Carbone, Maria Benevolo, Vitaliano Silipo, Francesca Rollo, Renato Covello, Paolo Piemonte, Pasquale Frascione, Rodolfo Capizzi, Caterina Catrical, Aldo Venuti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The pathogenic role of beta-HPVs in non melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), is not still completely understood, and literature data indicate that they might be at least cofactors in the development of certain cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas. However, only few reports contain data on basal cell carcinoma (BCC). The HPVs interact with many cellular proteins altering their function or the expression levels, like the p16 INK4a and Akt. Our study aimed to determine the presence of different beta -HPV types and the expression of p16 INK4a and Akt in BCC, the commonest NMSC, in the normal appearing perilesional skin and in forehead swab of 37 immunocompetent patients. Methods. The expression of p16 INK4a and Akt, by immunohistochemistry, and the HPV DNA, by nested PCR, were investigated in each sample. Results: No correspondence of HPV types between BCC and swab samples was found, whereas a correspondence between perilesional skin and BCC was ascertained in the 16,7% of the patients. In BCC, 16 different types of beta HPV were found and the most frequent types were HPV107 (15,4%), HPV100 (11,5%) and HPV15 (11,5%) all belonging to the beta HPV species 2. Immunohistochemistry detected significant p16 INK4a expression in almost all tumor samples (94,3%) with the highest percentages (> 30%) of positive cells detected in 8 cases. A statistically significant (p = 0,012) increase of beta HPV presence was detected in p16 INK4a strongly positive samples, in particular of species 2. pAkt expression was detected in all tumor samples with only 2 cases showing rare positive cells, whereas Akt2 expression was found in 14 out of 35 BCC (40%); in particular in HPV positive samples over-expressing p16 INK4a. Conclusions: Our data show that p16 INK4a and pAkt are over-expressed in BCC and that the high expression of p16 INK4a and of Akt2 isoform is often associated with the presence of beta-HPV species 2 (i.e. HPV 15). The association of these viruses with the up-regulation of p16 INK4a and Akt/PI3K pathway suggests that in a subtype of BCC these viruses may exert a role in the carcinogenesis or in other, still undefined, biological property of these tumors. If this particular type of BCC reflects a different biology it will remain undisclosed until further studies on a larger number of samples will be performed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • BCC
  • HPVs
  • p16 and Akt1/2
  • skin cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Medicine(all)


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