AIMS: To determine whether Abl immunoreactivity correlates with grade and cell kinetics (apoptosis and mitosis) in chondrosarcoma. METHODS: Sections from 16 chondrosarcomas were stained immunohistochemically using a polyclonal antibody to the c-Abl/Bcr-Abl oncoprotein. Apoptotic indices and mitotic indices were assessed in all tumours. Sections from 24 paraffin wax blocks of human fetal rib (gestational ages, 15-42 weeks) were also stained to determine whether the Abl protein is synthesised consistently throughout endochondral ossification. RESULTS: Abl staining in immature fetal rib chondrocytes at all stages of development was predominantly nuclear, and 70% of cells showed moderate to strong staining. Abl immunoreactivity was minimal or absent in hypertrophic chondrocytes about to undergo apoptosis at the growth plate. There was strong Abl staining in grade 1 and grade 2 chondrosarcomas but staining was greatly reduced or absent in grade 3 chondrosarcomas. There was a very significant linear correlation between apoptotic index (mean, 0.68%; range, 0-3.2%) and mitotic index (mean, 0.23%; range, 0-0.9%), and both indices were significantly lower in grade 1 than in grade 2 and grade 3 chondrosarcomas. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that abl gene expression is associated with differentiation and apoptosis inhibition in fetal and neoplastic chondrocytes. However, these putative effects cannot be ascribed solely to the Abl protein, because several additional factors contribute to the regulation of both differentiation and apoptosis.
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