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Overexpression of carbonic anhydrase and HIF-1α in Wilms tumours

Josiah V Dungwa12, Linda P Hunt3 and Pramila Ramani12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Histopathology, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol BS2 8HW, UK

2 School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Bristol, School of Medical Sciences, University Walk, Bristol BS8 1TD, UK

3 Senior Lecturer in Medical Statistics, University of Bristol School of Clinical Sciences, UBHT Education Centre, Upper Maudlin Street, Bristol, BS2 8AE, UK

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:390  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-390

Published: 12 September 2011



Overexpression of carbonic anhydrase (CA IX) is associated with poor survival in several adult-type cancers but its expression is undocumented in Wilms tumour (WT), the most common tumour of the paediatric kidney.


CA9 expression was measured using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 13 WTs and matched-paired non-neoplastic kidneys (NKs). CA IX and hypoxia-inducible factor-1 α-subunit (HIF-1α) protein were quantified in 15 matched-paired WTs and NKs using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. CA IX and HIF-1α were localised by immunostaining tissue sections of 70 WTs (untreated WTs, n = 22; chemotherapy-treated WTs, n = 40; relapsed/metastatic WTs, n = 8). CA IX-positive untreated WTs (n = 14) were immunostained for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), glucose transporter-1 (GLUT1) and CD31. Double staining for CA IX and CD31 was performed in WTs (n = 14).


CA9 full length (FL) was significantly up-regulated in WTs compared to NKs (p = 0.009) by real-time PCR. Conventional PCR showed expression of alternative splice variant in all NKs and WTs but FL in WTs only. WTs showed a 2-fold increase in CA IX protein over NKs (p = 0.01). HIF-1α levels were up-regulated in WTs compared to NKs, although the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.09). CA IX and HIF-1α immunolocalisation were observed in 63% and 93% of WTs, respectively. The median fraction of cells staining positively for CA IX and HIF-1α was 5% and 22%, respectively. There was no significant association between the expression of either CA IX or HIF-1α and clinicopathological variables in WTs resected following chemotherapy. VEGF and GLUT1 immunoreactivity was seen in 94% and 100% with the median fraction of 10% and 60% respectively. Co-expression and co-localisation of all four hypoxia markers was seen in 7/14 and 6/14 cases respectively. CA IX was seen in well vascularised areas as well as in the peri-necrotic areas.


Carbonic anhydrase 9 (mRNA and protein), and HIF-1α protein are overexpressed in a significant portion of WTs. No significant association was detected between the expression of either CA IX or HIF-1α and clinicopathological variables in WTs resected following chemotherapy. Cellular localisation studies in untreated WTs suggest that CA IX and HIF-1α are regulated by hypoxia and non-hypoxia mechanisms.