Cadherin and catenin expression in normal human bronchial epithelium and non-small cell lung cancer

Lung Cancer. 1999 Jun;24(3):157-68. doi: 10.1016/s0169-5002(99)00032-x.


Cadherins are transmembrane cell adhesion molecules (CAMS) that mediate cell-cell interactions and are important for maintenance of epithelial cell integrity. This function is dependent on an indirect interaction between the cytoplasmic domain of the cadherin molecule with three cytoplasmic proteins known as alpha-, beta-, and gamma-catenin (-cat). Growing evidence suggests that alterations in cadherin or catenin expression or function may be important to the development of an invasive or metastatic phenotype. Immunohistochemical techniques were used to study the expression of the two major epithelial cadherins, E-cadherin (E-cad) and P-cadherin (P-cad) as well as alpha- and gamma-cat in normal bronchial epithelium and in a series of carefully TMN-staged pulmonary adenocarcinomas (n = 21) and squamous cell carcinomas (n = 7). The cadherin profile of normal pseudostratified bronchial epithelium was heterogeneous. Basilar cells strongly expressed P-cad, alpha- and gamma-cat, while columnar cells moderately expressed E-cad, alpha- and gamma-cat. In contrast to other epithelial tumors, E-cad on non-small cell lung carcinomas was actually upregulated, however, a decrease in P-cad expression was noted in 68%. At least one cadherin or catenin was downregulated, compared to normal bronchial epithelium, in 82% of tumors examined. With the exception of an association between loss of P-cad expression and poorly differentiated state, changes in cadherin and catenin expression levels were not significantly correlated to tumor stage, cell type, or nodal status. These findings illustrate that alteration of expression of cadherins and catenins are often found in non-small cell lung carcinoma when compared to the progenitor bronchial epithelium, and may play a role in the development of the malignant phenotype.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchi / cytology
  • Bronchi / metabolism*
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Desmoplakins
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • alpha Catenin
  • gamma Catenin


  • CTNNA1 protein, human
  • Cadherins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Desmoplakins
  • JUP protein, human
  • alpha Catenin
  • gamma Catenin