Regulation of cell differentiation is most often impaired in malignant tumors and may represent a key mechanism for the progression of the disease. CCAAT-enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) is a family of transcription factors involved in the regulation of embryonic gut development in rodents, which has also been detected in various malignancies, e.g., liposarcomas and breast and ovarian epithelial tumors. We studied the relationship between C/EBP and tumor histology (Duke's invasive stage and pathological grade) in colorectal cancer. Immunoblotting techniques were used on microdissected fresh frozen tumor specimens, and expression of C/EBPalpha, C/EBPbeta and C/EBPzeta (CHOP) was analyzed in addition to that of the cell-cycle regulator p53 and the proliferation marker PCNA. Expression of C/EBPbeta (LAP isoforms) was markedly increased in all tumors compared with normal colon mucosa. Although the inter-patient variability was large, we found that LIP, the isoform of C/EBPbeta known to inhibit transcription, was expressed at higher levels in Duke's stage B tumors compared with Duke's stage A, whereas Duke's C tumors had the lowest LIP expression. A similar relationship was seen for CHOP. The cell-cycle regulator gene p53 was the only factor that clearly correlated with pathological grade: a decrease in p53 expression was demonstrated. Our data suggest that genetic and cellular events involving C/EBPbeta and CHOP are important for tumor invasion and that these events do not appear to be related to the pathological grade of the tumor.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.