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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 1996;38(2):217-26.

Cellular localisation by in situ hybridisation of cathepsin D, stromelysin 3, and urokinase plasminogen activator RNAs in breast cancer.

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Unite Hormones et Cancer (U 148) INSERM, Faculte de Medecine, Montpellier, France.


We have compared by RNA in situ hybridisation on serial cryo-sections the distribution of cathepsin D (cathD), stromelysin 3 (strom-3), and urokinase plasminogen activator (UPA) gene expression in different tissues of human benign and malignant mammary tumors. Cath-D expression was found to be higher in adenocarcinomas compared to non-tumoral glands. The cath-D RNA was located in mammary epithelial cancer cells rather than in fibroblasts, indicating that the cath-D gene was overexpressed in cancer cells, where the corresponding protein determined by immunohistochemical staining had been shown to be accumulated (E Roger et al., Human Pathol 25: 863-871,1994). In contrast strom-3 RNA in adjacent tissue sections used as a control of tissue localisation was mostly expressed in peritumoral fibroblasts rather than in cancer cells confirming previous results of Basset et al. and validating our methodology. UPA RNA was detected both in tumor cells and in stromal cells. In benign lesions the 3 protease RNAs were mostly found in epithelial cells. Stromal cells expressed UPA RNA in 5 of 7 lesions, cath-D and strom-3 in only one sample. We conclude that in breast cancer patients, cath-D gene expression is increased in epithelial mammary cancer cells at the RNA level as well as at the protein level, suggesting an altered transcriptional regulation. In non malignant lesions, the distribution was different with a predominant distribution in epithelial mammary cells for the 3 protease messenger RNA.

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