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Differentiation. 1982;22(1):25-40.

An unusual type of cytokeratin filament in cells of a human cloacogenic carcinoma derived from the anorectal transition zone.


Epithelia-derived tumors (carcinomas) can be distinguished from mesenchymally derived tumors by the presence of intermediate-sized filaments of the cytokeratin type, which usually coincides with the absence of other types of intermediate-sized filaments such as vimentin filaments. In the course of diagnostic examinations of human tumors, using immunofluorescence microscopy, we have come across a case of an unusual carcinoma (Primary tumor and lymph node metastasis) positively stained not only with cytokeratin antibodies but also with immunoglobulins present in vimentin antisera. Therefore, this tumor, a cloacogenic carcinoma apparently derived from the rectal-anal transitional region, has been examined in greater detail using both immunofluorescence microscopy and immuno-electron microscopy as well as gel electrophoretic analysis of cytoskeletal polypeptides from total tumor tissue and from microdissected nodules enriched in carcinoma cells. The unusual reaction of the carcinoma cells with immunoglobulins present in seven different (rabbit or guinea pig) antisera raised against vimentin, has been found to be diminished after absorption on purified cytokeratin or total epidermal cytoskeletal material, but not after absorption on purified vimentin. Gel electrophoretic analysis of tumor cytoskeletons showed an unusual complex pattern of cytokeratin polypeptides containing relatively large (Mr 68,000 and Mr 58,000) neutral-to-slightly basic cytokeratins, as are typically found in epidermis and other stratified squamous epithelia, as well as several smaller acidic cytokeratins, including a Mr 40,000 polypeptide found in certain nonstratified epithelial such as colon and small intestine. Total tumor also showed the inclusion of some vimentin which, however, was significantly decreased in analysis of excised carcinoma nodules. Examining antibody binding to polypeptides separated by gel electrophoresis and blotted on nitrocellulose paper, we have found that antisera raised against vimentin contained not only vimentin antibodies but also immunoglobulins which specifically bound to the largest cytokeratin component. We conclude that the unusual reaction of immunoglobulins present in vimentin antisera with cytokeratin filament bundles does not represent specific binding to vimentin in these carcinoma cells, but is due to a component obviously widespread in vimentin antisera which binds specifically to a cytokeratin present in this type of tumor but not in most other carcinomas. It is proposed that use is made in diagnostic examinations of vimentin antisera or affinity-purified vimentin antibodies that have been pre-absorbed on cytokeratin protein, in order to eliminate such disturbing reactions.

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