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Abnormal expression of p27kip1 protein in levator ani muscle of aging women with pelvic floor disorders – a relationship to the cellular differentiation and degeneration

Antonin Bukovsky12*, Pleas Copas2, Michael R Caudle12, Maria Cekanova1, Tamara Dassanayake2, Bridgett Asbury2, Stuart E Van Meter3, Robert F Elder2, Jeffrey B Brown2 and Stephanie B Cross2

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory for Development, Differentiation and Cancer, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Tennessee, Graduate school of Medicine, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

3 Department of Pathology, The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, 1924 Alcoa Highway, Knoxville, USA

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BMC Clinical Pathology 2001, 1:4  doi:10.1186/1472-6890-1-4

Published: 8 October 2001



Pelvic floor disorders affect almost 50% of aging women. An important role in the pelvic floor support belongs to the levator ani muscle. The p27/kip1 (p27) protein, multifunctional cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, shows changing expression in differentiating skeletal muscle cells during development, and relatively high levels of p27 RNA were detected in the normal human skeletal muscles.


Biopsy samples of levator ani muscle were obtained from 22 symptomatic patients with stress urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and overlaps (age range 38–74), and nine asymptomatic women (age 31–49). Cryostat sections were investigated for p27 protein expression and type I (slow twitch) and type II (fast twitch) fibers.


All fibers exhibited strong plasma membrane (and nuclear) p27 protein expression. cytoplasmic p27 expression was virtually absent in asymptomatic women. In perimenopausal symptomatic patients (ages 38–55), muscle fibers showed hypertrophy and moderate cytoplasmic p27 staining accompanied by diminution of type II fibers. Older symptomatic patients (ages 57–74) showed cytoplasmic p27 overexpression accompanied by shrinking, cytoplasmic vacuolization and fragmentation of muscle cells. The plasma membrane and cytoplasmic p27 expression was not unique to the muscle cells. Under certain circumstances, it was also detected in other cell types (epithelium of ectocervix and luteal cells).


This is the first report on the unusual (plasma membrane and cytoplasmic) expression of p27 protein in normal and abnormal human striated muscle cells in vivo. Our data indicate that pelvic floor disorders are in perimenopausal patients associated with an appearance of moderate cytoplasmic p27 expression, accompanying hypertrophy and transition of type II into type I fibers. The patients in advanced postmenopause show shrinking and fragmentation of muscle fibers associated with strong cytoplasmic p27 expression.