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Cancer Res. 1994 Jan 1;54(1):291-6.

E-cadherin and alpha-catenin expression in human esophageal cancer.

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  • 1Department of Surgery II, Osaka University Medical School, Japan.


Intercellular adhesion of the epithelial tissue is mainly regulated by the E-cadherin (E-cad) molecule. alpha-Catenin (alpha-cat) is one of the E-cad-associated cytoplasmic proteins that forms a linkage to the cytoskeleton and regulates E-cad function. To investigate the mechanism of dysfunction in cell-cell adhesion in cancerous tissues, we examined E-cad and alpha-cat expression by immunohistochemical staining on 46 human esophageal cancers using our specific monoclonal antibodies. By grading of E-cad and alpha-cat expression as uniformly positive (+), heterogeneous (+/-), or uniformly negative (-), the 46 tumors could be classified into 9 (20%) E-cad(+)/alpha-cat(+), 15 (33%) E-cad(+/-)/alpha-cat(+/-), 21 (46%) E-cad(+/-)/alpha-cat(-), and 1 (2%) E-cad(-)/alpha-cat(-). Twenty-five (54%) of the 46 tumors showed a similar expression of both molecules, while the other 21 tumors (46%) showed E-cad(+/-)/alpha-cat(-). Thus, although the expression of alpha-cat was significantly correlated with that of E-cad, in some tumors the reduction of alpha-cat was greater. Regarding the clinicopathological features, the reduction of alpha-cat expression, as well as that of E-cad, was significantly associated with tumor dedifferentiation, infiltrative growth, and lymph node metastasis (P < 0.01). Furthermore, the frequency of lymph node metastasis in E-cad(+/-)/alpha-cat(-) tumors was significantly higher (90%) than in E-cad(+)/alpha-cat(+) tumors (22%) (P < 0.01) or in E-cad(+/-)/alpha-cat(+/-) tumors (47%) (P < 0.05). These results suggest that not only E-cad but also alpha-cat are important regulators of intercellular adhesion and that alpha-cat is also involved in invasion and metastasis. In particular, reduction of alpha-cat expression is more correlated with invasive phenotype and lymph node metastasis than E-cad expression in human esophageal cancer.

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