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Virchows Arch. 2000 Dec;437(6):599-604.

beta-catenin expression pattern in primary oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Relationship with clinicopathologic features and clinical outcome.

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Servicio de Oncología Médica, Hospital Universitario La Paz, Madrid, Spain.


beta-Catenin has an essential role in intercellular adhesion and signal transduction. beta-catenin functions as a transcriptional activator downstream in the Wnt signalling pathway. Cytoplasmic stabilisation of beta-catenin, mainly due to inactivating mutations of the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) tumour suppressor gene or activating mutations in exon 3 of the beta-catenin gene, can activate this important pathway in the development of several carcinomas. To determine whether this pathway for malignant transformation is important in oesophageal cancer, we analysed 39 primary oesophageal squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC). Immunohistochemical expression of beta-catenin was studied in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue samples. Results were correlated with clinicopathological parameters and immunohistochemical expression of the proteins p53, E-cadherin, bcl-2 and Ki-67. All examined OSCC had beta-catenin expression localised in the cellular membrane, frequently with a heterogeneous pattern. Seven (18%) cases also showed immunoexpression in the cytoplasm and nuclei of the tumour cells. These seven tumours were localised in the upper (three) or in the middle third (four) of the oesophagus. Only one patient had p53 expression and all had bcl-2 expression. The consensus sequence for glycogen synthase kinase (GSK) 3beta phosphorylation in exon 3 of the beta-catenin gene was studied using polymerase chain reaction and direct sequencing in the seven cases with nuclear beta-catenin expression. No genetic alteration was found. These results suggest that beta-catenin expression may characterise a subset of OSCC.

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