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Am J Pathol. 2000 Nov;157(5):1549-62.

The mRNA of L-type calcium channel elevated in colon cancer: protein distribution in normal and cancerous colon.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Previous reports indicate that the mRNA for the cardiac isoform of the voltage-gated L-type calcium channel (alpha(1C)) is elevated in colon cancer. The aim of these experiments was to verify that the mRNA for alpha(1C) was significantly increased in tumors of two separate populations of patients when compared to normal adjacent mucosa. The second aim was to measure the distribution of alpha(1C) using immunocytochemistry in normal human colon and in colon cancer and to determine what might regulate the channel expression. Biopsies were taken from patients with various stages of colon cancer and nearby normal mucosa were used as control. RNA was prepared and mRNA level measured by semiquantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. The mRNA of the calcium channel was compared with other markers including beta-actin. The mRNA for alpha(1C) was increased significantly in colon cancers compared to nearby adjacent mucosa. Using confocal microscopy alpha(1C) was localized mainly at the apical membrane in the surface epithelium of normal human colon with less distribution on the lateral and basal membranes. The channel was localized on the lateral and basal membranes in crypt cells. Calcium channel localization appeared to be nearer nuclei in colon cancer samples, in part because of the smaller size of the cells. Likewise, cultured Caco-2 and T84 cells showed a membrane distribution. Western blotting indicated that alpha(1C) protein was increased in nonconfluent cultures of colonic carcinoma cells compared to confluent cells and immunocytochemistry confirms that there is more calcium channel protein in cells that are nonconfluent. We conclude that the increase in mRNA of alpha(1) subunit of the cardiac isoform of the L-type calcium channel may be a useful marker of colon cancer compared to other markers because the increase is large and this increase can be documented on small samples using a simple semiquantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. We found that alpha(1C) protein is increased when colonic cells are nonconfluent or dividing which may account for the increase in cancer.

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