Karyometry detects subvisual differences in chromatin organization state between cribriform and flat high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia


This digital texture analysis-based study evaluates the chromatin organization state in flat and cribriform high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN), in the adjacent normal looking secretory epithelium and in the co-occurring adenocarcinoma. Digital texture analysis (karyometry) was carried out on hematoxylin and eosin-stained sections from 24 radical prostatectomy specimens with high-grade PIN (12 with flat and 12 with cribriform architectural pattern, respectively) and cancer. Quantification was also conducted on the normal looking secretory epithelium. Discriminant analysis and the nonsupervised learning algorithm P-index were used to identify suitable subsets of features useful for the discrimination and classification of pathological groups and to explore multivariate data structure in the pathological subgroups. The average nuclear abnormality increases monotonically from the histologically normal appearing secretory epithelium to high-grade PIN and to adenocarcinoma. The nuclei from the so-called perimeter compartment of the flat high-grade PIN lesions show a higher nuclear abnormality compared to the nuclei of the cribriform high-grade PINs. Discriminant analysis shows that flat and cribriform high-grade PINs fall into two populations. Processing by the nonsupervised learning algorithm P-index revealed the existence of three well-defined, distinct subpopulations of nuclei of different chromatin phenotype. In the flat high-grade PIN lesions the proportions of nuclei in the three subpopulations are 16.5% (low abnormality), 25.0% (mid abnormality) and 58.5% (high abnormality), respectively. In the cribriform high-grade PIN lesions, 100% of the nuclei are in the mid-abnormality subpopulation. These differences are also discernible in the co-occurring adenocarcinoma and the histologically normal appearing secretory epithelium. To conclude, karyometry and statistical analysis detect the existence of distinct cell subpopulations of different chromatin packaging and phenotype, with the nuclei from the flat high-grade PIN lesions, adjacent normal looking epithelium and co-occurring adenocarcinoma expressing a greater nuclear abnormality than in the specimens with cribriform high-grade PIN.

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This research has been supported by grants from the Polytechnic University of the Marche Region (Ancona) (MS), and the Italian Ministry of University and Scientific Research (RM, 2003) and, in part, by a grant from the National Cancer Institute, CA 53877-13 (PHB). The content of this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Polytechnic University of the Marche Region (Ancona) (Italy), and the National Cancer Institute (USA). We wish to thank Dr James Ranger-Moore (College of Public Health, Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona, AZ, USA) for his contribution to statistical analysis.

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Correspondence to Rodolfo Montironi.

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  • prostate
  • prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia
  • precursor lesions
  • prostate cancer
  • chemoprevention

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