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EXS. 1991;59:109-26.

The role of E-cadherin and scatter factor in tumor invasion and cell motility.

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Institut f├╝r Zellbiologie (Tumorforschung), Universit├Ątsklinikum, Essen, Germany.


The acquisition of invasive properties by transformed epithelial cells constitutes an essential step in the progression of carcinomas. We have defined 2 types of interferences leading to enhanced motility and invasiveness of epithelial cells: (i) disturbances of intercellular adhesion, and (ii) treatment with "scatter factor", a secretory protein of mesenchymal cells. Invasive properties (invasion of collagen gels or embryonal heart tissue) are acquired by epithelial cells in vitro when intercellular adhesion is inhibited by antibodies that are specific for the cell-cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin. Furthermore, we found that differentiated human carcinoma cell lines are noninvasive and express E-cadherin, whereas dedifferentiated carcinoma lines are invasive and have lost E-cadherin expression. Invasiveness of these latter cells could be prevented by transfection with E-cadherin cDNA and was again induced by treatment of the transfected cells with anti-E-cadherin antibodies. A correlation between the degree of tumor differentiation and the amount of E-cadherin expression was also visualized on frozen sections of ovarian carcinomas, lobular breast carcinomas, and squamous carcinomas of head and neck. Thus, loss of E-cadherin appears to be a critical step in the establishment of an invasive, i.e. fully malignant phenotype. Scatter factor, which is also capable of dissociating epithelial cell colonies in vitro, was isolated from conditional medium of human fibroblasts; it is a 92,000 mol.wt glycoprotein, which is proteolytically cleaved into 62,000 and 34/32,000 mol.wt subunits. The purified glycoprotein induces invasion of MDCK cells into collagen matrices, and induces or enhances the invasive properties of various human carcinoma cell lines. Sequencing of tryptic peptides of scatter factor revealed strong similarity with hepatocyte growth factor. Furthermore, both factors exhibit identical activities, i.e. scatter factor stimulates DNA synthesis of primary hepatocytes and hepatocyte growth factor dissociates and increases the motility of various epithelial cells. Thus scatter factor and hepatocyte growth factor represent identical or closely similar proteins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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