Multiple ways of silencing E-cadherin gene expression in lobular carcinoma of the breast

Int J Cancer. 2001 May 1;92(3):404-8. doi: 10.1002/ijc.1208.


The cell-cell adhesion receptor gene E-cadherin (CDH1) is expressed by epithelial cells, in which it mediates adhesion and morphogenesis. Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) characteristically infiltrates diffusely as single cells; by immunohistochemistry, many of these tumours lack E-cadherin expression. In the present study we investigated various ways in which loss of function of the E-cadherin gene could occur in ILCs, namely, promoter methylation, mutation and allelic loss. We analysed 22 ILCs and found 12 (55%) E-cadherin-negative samples by immunohistochemical analysis. Methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) showed that 17/22 (77%) of these tumours had methylation of the CDH1 promoter, including 11/12 (91%) of the E-cadherin-negative tumours. All 16 exons of E-cadherin (including intron-exon boundaries) were amplified from chromosomal DNA and screened for mutations by conformation-sensitive gel electrophoresis (CSGE). Bands with altered mobility were analysed by direct sequencing. We identified five frameshift mutations, which resulted in downstream stop codons and one splice site mutation in six different tumours (29%). Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) was assessed using microsatellite markers, and 9/18 (50%) informative tumours showed LOH. We conclude that most ILCs show genetic or epigenetic changes affecting the E-cadherin gene and that many of these tumours lack E-cadherin expression. In all cases in which there was loss of expression, this was consistent with biallelic inactivation of CDH1 by promoter methylation, mutation or allelic loss in any combination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cadherins / biosynthesis
  • Cadherins / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Loss of Heterozygosity / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics


  • Cadherins