Expression of Toll-like Receptor 9 Increases with Progression of Cervical Neoplasia in Tunisian Women - A Comparative Analysis of Condyloma, Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia and Invasive Carcinoma


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are expressed in immune and tumor cells and recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns. Cervical cancer (CC) is directly linked to a persistent infection with high risk human papillomaviruses (HR-HPVs) and could be associated with alteration of TLRs expression. TLR9 plays a key role in the recognition of DNA viruses and better understanding of this signaling pathway in CC could lead to the development of novel immunotherapeutic approaches. The present study was undertaken to determine the level of TLR9 expression in cervical neoplasias from Tunisian women with 53 formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded specimens, including 22 samples of invasive cervical carcinoma (ICC), 18 of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), 7 of condyloma and 6 normal cervical tissues as control cases. Quantification of TLR9 expression was based on scoring four degrees of extent and intensity of immunostaining in squamous epithelial cells. TLR9 expression gradually increased from CIN1 (80% weak intensity) to CIN2 (83.3% moderate), CIN3 (57.1%strong) and ICC (100% very strong). It was absent in normal cervical tissue and weak in 71.4% of condyloma. The mean scores of TLR9 expression were compared using the Kruskall-Wallis test and there was a statistical significance between normal tissue and condyloma as well as between condyloma, CINs and ICC. These results suggest that TLR9 may play a role in progression of cervical neoplasia in Tunisian patients and could represent a useful biomarker for malignant transformation of cervical squamous cells.