Patterning and nuclear beta-catenin expression in the colonic adenoma-carcinoma sequence. Analogies with embryonic gastrulation

Am J Pathol. 2000 Oct;157(4):1113-21. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9440(10)64626-3.


Patterning is a process by which ordered arrangements of cells and tissue structure are attained. The term derived from developmental biology is also useful for the study of colonic carcinogenesis, in which the patterning of neoplastic tubules is necessary for properties of growth, invasion, and metastasis. Interestingly the nuclear expression and transcriptional activity of beta-catenin, a major oncoprotein in colonic carcinogenesis, is decisive for the first patterning of a tubule in embryogenesis, which creates the primitive gut and is called the gastrulation. Thus, basic patternings of embryogenesis and carcinogenesis might be linked. To test this hypothesis we compared morphological patterns and immunohistochemical beta-catenin stainings in colonic adenomas and adenocarcinomas with the gastrulation steps. Two analogies were found: 1) the patterning of invasion with reconstruction in adenocarcinomas corresponded to the epithelio-mesenchymal transition, ingression, and rearrangement of cells during the first phase of gastrulation; and 2) the patterning of tubular branching in adenomas and adenocarcinomas resembled the endodermal invagination during the second phase. The intratumorous distribution and intensity of nuclear beta-catenin expression was significantly correlated with the two patternings, similar to the findings in gastrulation. The results indicate microenvironmental regulations of nuclear beta-catenin expression and a return of neoplastic cells to embryonic transcriptional susceptibilities during colonic carcinogenesis.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gastrula / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Trans-Activators*
  • beta Catenin


  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • beta Catenin