MAP2K4/MKK4 expression in pancreatic cancer: Genetic validation of immunohistochemistry and relationship to disease course

Wei Xin, Ki J. Yun, Francesca Ricci, Marianna Zahurak, Wanglong Qiu, Gloria H. Su, Charles J. Yeo, Ralph H. Hruban, Scott E. Kern, Christine A. Iacobuzio-Donahue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


MKK4 (MAP2K4/SEK1) is a member of the mitogen-activated protein kinase family, originally identified as a kinase involved in the stress-activated protein kinase pathway by directly phosphorylating c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase. MKK4 genetic inactivation has been observed in a subset of pancreatic carcinomas, implicating deregulation of the stress-activated protein kinase pathway in pancreatic carcinogenesis. We evaluated Mkk4 protein expression patterns by immunohistochemical labeling in a series of 60 resected primary infiltrating pancreatic adenocarcinomas (24 cases with known MKK4 genetic status), and 14 different tissue arrays representing the primary carcinoma and all of the gross metastases from 26 patients that died of metastatic pancreatic cancer. Among the surgically resected carcinomas, focal or diffuse-positive immunolabeling for Mkk4 protein was found in 52 of 60 cases (86.7%). Among the eight carcinomas with negative Mkk4 immunolabeling, three harbored a homozygous deletion or intragenic mutation of the MKK4 gene, in contrast to none of the 52 cases with positive Mkk4 immunolabeling (P < 0.01). Loss of Mkk4 immuno-labeling showed a trend toward shorter survival, with Mkk4-positive carcinomas having half the risk of death than Mkk4-negative carcinomas (P = 0.09). Mkk4 immunolabeling patterns were also evaluated among unresectable primary and metastatic cancer tissues from autopsy specimens, indicating intact Mkk4 immunolabeling in 88.8% of the unresectable primary carcinomas as compared with 63.3% of distant metastases (P < 0.001). Our data indicate that the loss of Mkk4 protein expression in pancreatic carcinomas may be more frequent than suggested by the rates of genetic inactivation alone and that MKK4 loss may contribute to disease progression. The correlation of MKK4 genetic status with immunolabeling patterns validate this approach for the evaluation of MKK4 status in routine histologic sections and may provide useful information regarding patient prognosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8516-8520
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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