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Am J Pathol. 1999 Aug;155(2):505-15.

Changing roles of cadherins and catenins during progression of squamous intraepithelial lesions in the uterine cervix.

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Department of Pathology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden Academic Hospital Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Uterine cervix represents a convenient model for the study of the gradual transformation of normal squamous epithelium via low- to high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (SILs). Because SIL, on the basis of the cytokeratins expressed, are thought to originate from the reserve cells, we analyzed whether SILs also show a reserve cell phenotype with respect to intercellular interactions. The changes in expression and subcellular localization of the components of the adherens junction and desmosomal complexes were investigated in normal, metaplastic, and premalignant cervical epithelium, as well as in cell cultures derived from these tissues. The results suggest that 1) during progression of SILs, E-cadherin is suppressed, with its role in cell-cell connections diminishing; 2) P-cadherin, in contrast, becomes the predominant cadherin in high-grade SILs; 3) the level of cellular alpha-catenin is dramatically decreased in high-grade SILs; 4) the level of beta-catenin is decreased during progression of SILs, with plakoglobin suggestively becoming the predominant catenin mediating connection of cadherins to the cytoskeleton; 5) the assembly of desmosomes is affected during progression of SILs and is accompanied by a dramatically decreased expression for desmogleins and desmoplakins (I, II); and 6) expression of differentiation markers (involucrin, CK13) in high-grade SILs seems to be controlled by P-cadherin as opposed to E-cadherin in the normal tissue counterpart. We conclude that during development of cervical lesions substantial (both quantitative and qualitative) changes occur in cell-cell junctions, making the interactions of cells in lesions dissimilar from those of reserve cells, basal cells, or cells of immature squamous metaplasia, despite existing morphological similarity between all of these cell types and cells of high-grade lesions.

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