Mucinous cystic neoplasm (MCN) of the pancreas rarely progresses to invasive carcinoma, but few studies have analyzed genomic alterations involved in its malignant transformation. The relationships of ring finger protein 43 (RNF43) mutations with cytological atypia, RNF43 protein expression, and Wnt signaling proteins in MCN remain unclear. This study included 106 MCN cases, classified into 89 low-grade dysplasia (LG), 9 high-grade dysplasia (HG), and 8 invasive carcinoma (INV). We analyzed HG/INV and LG lesions of 9 HG/INV cases and LG lesions of 9 LG cases using targeted sequencing and confirmed the protein expression of RNF43 and β-catenin. The frequency of RNF43 mutations was significantly higher in HG/INV cases than in LG cases. Furthermore, HG/INV lesions (56%) and LG lesions (33%) of HG/INV cases possessed RNF43 mutation, whereas no such mutation was detected in any LG cases. The expression of RNF43 was reduced in 71% of HG/INV cases and significantly correlated with histological grade and aberrant expression of β-catenin. In 3 of 5 RNF43-mutated cases, the expression of RNF43 was reduced, but there was no significant correlation between RNF43 mutation and protein expression. MCNs frequently harbored KRAS mutations, at rates of 100% in HG/INV lesions and 50% in LG lesions of HG/INV and LG cases. There was no significant difference in mutation frequency in LG lesions between HG/INV and LG cases. These results suggest that RNF43 mutations may be involved in and predictive of malignant transformation from an early stage of MCN.
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