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Am J Pathol. 1998 Jun;152(6):1549-61.

TRAF-4 expression in epithelial progenitor cells. Analysis in normal adult, fetal, and tumor tissues.

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  • 1Burnham Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


TRAF-4 was discovered because of its expression in breast cancers and is a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor-associated factor (TRAF) family of putative signal-transducing proteins. In vitro binding assays demonstrated that TRAF-4 interacts with the cytosolic domain of the lymphotoxin-beta receptor (LT beta R) and weakly with the p75 nerve growth factor receptor (NGFR) but not with TNFR1, TNFR2, Fas, or CD40. Immunofluorescence analysis of TRAF-4 in transfected cells demonstrated localization to cytosol but not nucleus. Immunohistochemical assays of normal human adult tissues revealed prominent cytosolic immunostaining in thymic epithelial cells and lymph node dendritic cells but not in lymphocytes or thymocytes, paralleling the reported patterns of LT beta R expression. The basal cell layer of most epithelia in the body was very strongly TRAF-4 immunopositive, including epidermis, nasopharynx, respiratory tract, salivary gland, and esophagus. Similar findings were obtained in 12- to 18-week human fetal tissue, indicating a highly restricted pattern of expression even during development in the mammary gland, epithelial cells of the terminal ducts were strongly TRAF-4 immunopositive whereas myoepithelial cells and most of the mammary epithelial cells lining the extralobular ducts were TRAF-4 immunonegative. Of 84 primary breast cancers evaluated, only 7 expressed TRAF-4. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) lesions were uniformly TRAF-4 immunonegative (n = 21). In the prostate, the basal cells were strongly immunostained for TRAF-4, whereas the secretory epithelial cells were TRAF-4 negative. Basal cells in prostate hypertrophy (n = 6) and prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN; n = 6) were strongly TRAF-4 positive, but none of the 32 primary and 16 metastatic prostate cancer specimens examined contained TRAF-4-positive malignant cells. Although also expressed in some types of mesenchymal cells, these findings suggest that TRAF-4 is a marker of normal epithelial stem cells, the expression of which often ceases on differentiation and malignant transformation.

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