Summary The aim of our study was to analyse desalivated rat tongue epithelium for histopathological changes, proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), and epithelium-associated stromal myofibroblasts [SMF; α-smooth muscle actin (αSMA)] following 0.001% 4-nitroquinoline 1-oxide (4NQO) administration in drinking water. Results were compared with those of identically treated but salivated specimens. 4NQO was administered for 7, 14, 22 and 28 weeks. Tongue length was divided into anterior, middle and posterior 'thirds'. The histopathological changes per 'third' were scored as normal epithelium, hyperplasia, dysplasia, carcinoma-in-situ, and superficial and invasive carcinoma. The PCNA and αSMA stains were assessed by a point-counting method. At all time points, the histopathological changes in the anterior and middle thirds were higher in the desalivated than in the salivated group (P < 0.05) but almost identical in the posterior third (P > 0.05). PCNA scores were significantly lower in the desalivated vs. the salivated group at almost all time points and tongue thirds (P < 0.05). SMF were usually scarce in both groups, but there was a significant surge in the posterior third at 28 weeks: the score in the desalivated group was only about one-half that of the salivated group (P < 0.05). The absence of saliva seems to promote malignant transformation of the tongue epithelium in the early stages. PCNA cannot be regarded as a marker of proliferation and probably contributes to this process by other mechanisms. Emergence of SMF seems to be highly dependent on growth factors from saliva in addition to factors from cancerous cells.
- 4NQO tongue cancer
- stromal myofibroblasts